One of the “Methods of Scouting” is the advancement program, which not only recognizes a Scout’s completion of requirements, it also teaches the importance of “process” and organization, and helps Scouts to work with adults (another “method” called Adult Association). The ability to set goals and follow a defined process to achieve the goals is key to future success in life.
The merit badge process begins when a Scout decides to work on badge requirements, and requests a “blue card” from a unit leader. The leader will sign and date the card, and enter the name and contact info of a counselor approved by the local district to work with the Scout. Approved counselors have completed Youth Protection Training and a background check, and have indicated an expertise in the merit badge subject. Read this post on Merit Badges to learn more about the process!
As the Scout completes requirements, the counselor will initial and date the blue card, and ultimately sign and date the card again when every requirement is successfully completed. The counselor keeps one third of the card for their records, and the Scout returns the remainder of the card to a unit leader for a signature and date. Another third of the blue card is returned to the Scout, while the final third is given to the Advancement Chair for troop records…signing and dating when recorded.
That’s a lot of signatures and dates…right? Why would the BSA include so many of these and create what appears to be an overly complex process? Here are some reasons why:
- Every signature is an opportunity for the Scout to interact with an adult, becoming more comfortable approaching and communicating with them in an informal setting;
- The dates indicate when the badge was started, when requirements were fulfilled, and when the badge was completed, approved, and recorded.
- Approvals and dates are entered into Scoutbook and synced to BSA’s “Internet Advancement” system nationally, which creates an official record that’s transferrable if the Scout switches units.
It’s very important for Scouts to retain their copy of blue cards for the life of their participation in the program. While only a small percent of Scouts will advance to Eagle, our goal as leaders is to support and encourage every youth to strive for that important recognition. Those who do will submit an application to the BSA Council office that lists all merit badges with date earned. The application will be reviewed and dates will be compared to those found in Internet Advancement, and the office may challenge any inconsistencies. Scouts may need to present their blue cards to answer those questions.
Given the importance of these cards, Scouts need to develop and implement an organization method that works best for them. Many will use a three-ring binder with plastic sleeves typically sold for sports card collecting. Others may find an index card box is more effective for them. Regardless of method, the cards need to be kept safe, clean and legible through the whole merit badge process, and then retained through their Eagle award.
If you have any questions about blue cards or any other aspect of the advancement process, be sure to ask a unit leader at the next troop meeting!