Tennessee Bottle Bill

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Suggestion for Changing BSA Environmental Science Merit Badge Requirements

Being a Boy Scout during the 1970s, I recall earning the relatively new (at that period of time) Environmental Science merit badge as this merit badge was considered to be one of the silver-banded "required" merit badges that are necessary for boy scouts to earn during their advancement toward the highest Eagle (or Eagle Scout) rank bestowed on scouts by the Boy Scouts of America National Council. I recently went online to review the BSA Environmental Science merit badge requirements in light of the Tennessee Bottle Bill Project only to learn that there is strangely not any learning or definition tasks within the BSA Environmental Science merit badge requirements pertaining to either "bottle bill laws" or "container deposit laws", given that almost one-third of the U.S.population (including boy scouts earing the BSA Environmental Science merit badge) reside within states or territories that have existing beverage container deposit laws:
  1. Make a timeline of the history of environmental science in America. Identify the contribution made by the Boy Scouts of America to environmental science. Include dates, names of people or organizations, and important events.

  2. Define the following terms: population, community, ecosystem, biosphere, symbiosis, niche, habitat, conservation, threatened species, endangered species, extinction, pollution prevention, brownfield, ozone, watershed, airshed, nonpoint source, hybrid vehicle, fuel cell.

Perhaps even more surprising is the fact the current BSA Environmental Science merit badge requirements do not even specify "litter" anywhere within these merit badge requirements. But in all fairness to the Boy Scouts of America National Council, I have not read through the official BSA Environmental Science merit badge pamphlet in almost thiry years, so that the issue of litter may be addressed under other subject headers such as "pollution prevention" or "resource recovery".

A quick search of the internet also revealed the organizational process by which the Boy Scouts of American National Council reveiws suggestions for both changing existing merit badge requirements (e.g.: Environmental Science) and creating entirely new BSA merit badges:

The answer to the questions above is very basic. In either case, a letter should be written, enclosing the suggested requirements for the merit badge, or the suggested change.

In the case of a NEW merit badge, the letter should also contain a suggested design for the badge. However, you shouldn't expect a speedy reply. The Program Division receives more than 400 merit badge suggestions each year, and they don't act upon any of them for at least a year or two. Every two years, the Boy Scout Program Committee goes through the merit badge suggestions and recommends to the Program Group Director four or five merit badges; it then goes around to other parts of the Program Group for concurrence; and then finally, it goes to the Editorial Service to coordinate and compose the actual merit badge requirements. The BSA's National Executive Board decides if the badge will go or not based upon the Program Group's recommendation. The entire process takes about three to five years. On the other hand, if there are a lot of Scouts and Scouters that feel that this deserves a chance (by writing to National in support of the new merit badge) the process can go a little faster. Hope this helps out!

Bob Torkelson, of Woods Cross, Utah, was curious if the National Council published info from the advancement department about new MBs that were under consideration and ones that were rejected and why. He called the National office and was directed to Terry Lawson, the Director of Boy Scout Advancement, and staff representative to the committee that considers new Merit Badges.

Here some of the things Terry told him:
  • The committee that considers new MBs meets 3 times a year.

  • The new MBs need to promote a hobby or career interest and promote the aims of Scouting.

  • When submitting an idea, you need to include the rationale behind the idea, as well as potential sample requirements for the badge.

  • Nearly all of the ideas for new badges are turned down for one reason or another, very few get tabled for consideration. There are two reasons for this.
    • First, there are currently 121 MBs and instead of growing that number to 200 or 500 they want to keep it around 120, so if a new MB is considered another one is usually dropped. That total has remained fairly consistent for the past 20 years or more, ranging from a high of 124 to a low of 116. [...]

    • Second, it takes around $75,000 to introduce a new MB due to creating the badges themselves, printing of pamphlets, and updating and printing of the Requirement book.

Changes, of course, don't require as complicated a process, but it still can take years for a change to be approved.

The letter should be sent to the Director of the appropriate Program Division, or the Advancement Committee, at the BSA's National Office. The address is:

Director, Boy Scout Program Division
Director, Cub Scout Program Division
Director, Venturing Program Division
Advancement Committee, S209

Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079

link: Proposals for New or Revised Merit Badges, Cub Scout Sports Belt Loops and Pins, or other Advancement Requirements Changes

I would also like to read input here at the Tennessee Bottle Bill blog about this issue from the perspective of related Girl Scout merit/activities badges pertaining to Environmental Science...


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