Not Your Father’s Eagle Project


Birdhouses. Toy drives. Hiking trails. Flag retirement ceremonies. Park benches.

Those words describe just a few of the tried and true Eagle Scout projects that are done by countless Scouts across the country each year. There’s nothing wrong with those ideas, but there’s also nothing that says Scouts can’t be a little more creative.

Or a lot more creative, in the case of Skyler Chapman from Lehi, Utah. Skyler made the local news recently for his truly unique project: fixing a traffic problem in his hometown. According to a Fox 13 report, he used a camera drone and a team of traffic observers to figure out just why traffic was building up for long periods at one particular intersection. (Spoiler alert: the problem was the lack of a dedicated turn lane.) Armed with the data he’d collected and the results of resident surveys, Skyler crafted a plan that he presented to the city council. His project was quickly approved and implemented, and tie-ups are reportedly a thing of the past at the problem intersection.

So how can you get your Scouts to think more creatively when they’re looking for Eagle projects? One option would be to have them look around their community for problems that need solving. Another would be to encourage them to talk with local nonprofit leaders about what’s on their wish lists. You could also suggest they spend some time browsing the Boys’ Life Eagle Project Showcase.

Then, when they come back to you with some apparently harebrained idea, don’t reflexively say no. Evaluate the idea against the actual advancement requirement, not against your experience and preconceived notions. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the project requirement:

While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.

Will your Scouts do projects that end up on the evening news? Perhaps not. But perhaps they’ll do projects that excite them more than the same old projects everybody else in the troop seems to do.

And who knows? One of them might even do a project that cuts your evening commute!

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at

A 20-Cent Court-of-Honor Treasure


These days, technology has made it easier (and cheaper) than ever to include a slide show in a court of honor. The hardest part, in fact, is sorting through hundreds of images to find those that chronicle the honoree’s growth in Scouting. During the sorting process, of course, you’re likely to find far more pictures than the two or three dozen you’re likely to use in the ceremony. After all, you don’t want the slide show portion of the show to balloon out of control. (If you’ve ever sat through a relative’s marathon showing of vacation pictures, you know how easily that can happen.)

I recommend burning all the relevant pictures you find onto a CD and presenting it to the honoree. One of my readers named Hal Smith did just that several years ago for his son’s best friend. The CD he created contained about 200 photos (culled from a collection of more than 7,000–yikes!) and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by the new Eagle Scout for years to come.

But the best thing about the CD, Hal said, was that the Scout’s mother got to share it with her terminally ill father before his death. Looking at the photos together allowed them to talk about happier times and not dwell on thoughts of cancer and loss. Not bad for a 20-cent piece of plastic.

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and

What’s Your Troop’s Digital Emergency Plan?


A year or so ago, a friend’s husband passed away suddenly in his late 50s. In the aftermath of his death, my friend felt lost–and not just because her husband had died. You see, he had handled the household finances, and she had been blissfully ignorant of things she suddenly really needed to know, like account numbers and online passwords.

Steve’s death prompted me to create a file of things my wife would need to know if I were gone. She now knows what our various account numbers are, how bills arrive (electronically or by snail mail), which bills are paid automatically, how to access online accounts, and where to find the keys to the safe deposit box. She also knows not to cancel my email and cellphone accounts since so many financial organizations now use two-factor authentication when you try to log into their websites.

What does this all have to do with your troop? You probably don’t have a safe deposit box, but you almost certainly do have other important data that could be lost if a key leader died–or simply decided to take his toys and go home. There’s your troop checking account, for example (which ought to have multiple people on the signature card). You may also have a Square or PayPal account you use for fundraising. There are the login credentials for your website (perhaps including separate domain-name registration). And what about your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts? Who is listed as an administrator there?

Most troops have relatively transient leadership, so it’s easy for the wrong people to still be listed as contacts or administrators for various accounts. You shouldn’t wait for a crisis to do a digital inventory.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at

Updated Resources for a Historic Award


The BSA’s Historic Trails Award has been around for decades–so long, in fact, that the patch isn’t even fully embroidered. (Gasp!) Now, an important update makes getting started with the award easier.

As described on the application, the award has just three requirements:

  1. Locate a historic trail or site and study information relating to it. (The information may be obtained from an adult historic
    society, public library, or people living near the trail or site.)
  2. Hike or camp two days and one night along the trail or in the
    vicinity of the site.
  3. Cooperate with an adult group such as a historic society to
    restore and mark all or part of this trail or site. (This may be
    done during the hike or overnight camp.) Or cooperate with
    such a group to plan and stage a historic pageant, ceremony,
    or other public event related to this trail or site—such an event
    should be large enough to merit coverage by the local press.

Those Scouts and adults who complete the requirements are eligible to receive a cloth or leather patch, which may be attached to a backpack or patch blanket (but not worn on the uniform).

The main problem with the award in recent years has been identifying nationally approved trails. No one was apparently maintaining the list, which had grown outdated as councils merged and changed names. Now, the National Outdoor Programs Support Committee has updated the list and published it on The Adventure Plan website. Just scroll to your state (or a state you want to visit), and you’ll find the trails in that area, along with the appropriate council to contact. (If you know of a trail that’s missing, encourage your local council to submit the BSA Historic Trails Renewal Application.)

In Boy Scouting, we often focus heavily on merit badges and ranks. While those advancement awards are obviously important, recognitions like the Historic Trails Award can be useful motivational tools and can encourage your Scouts to broaden their horizons.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at

How Eagle Scouts Can Pay It Forward



One of the most popular exhibits at this summer’s National Jamboree was the National Eagle Scout Association tent. And one of the neatest activities that happened there was the distribution of Future Eagle Scout pins. Over the course of the Jamboree, staff members distributed 2,000 of the pins, issuing a challenge to each recipient to become an Eagle Scout. (There’s no doubt the coins work; several Scouts who’d received similar coins at the 2013 Jamboree came back this summer to show off their Eagle Scout patches.)

So what’s the connection with Eagle courts of honor? Your next honoree could have a similar, albeit smaller, impact on the younger Scouts in attendance.

Several years ago, I heard from a mom whose son handed out Scout Oath and Scout Law pocket coins to his troop’s newest members during his ceremony. As he did so, he said, “My Scouting journey is complete and yours is just beginning; keep this coin with you always to remember to live by the Scout Oath.”

The new Scouts were excited to be part of the ceremony and to receive their coins. The group picture taken that day will doubtless reappear when some of those boys step forward to receive their Eagle Scout badges.

How does your troop involve younger Scouts in Eagle courts of honor? Post your comments below.

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both and