One of the most challenging parts of earning the Eagle Scout badge in the Boy Scouts of America is identifying and carrying out the Eagle Scout service project. While earning merit badges is important, it is usually the project that distinguishes the Eagle Scout. Every Eagle is proud of the his project because it takes work, organization, and determination. If done right, the Eagle project will stretch a boy's leadership skills and will probably be the hardest thing he has done to date in his life.
Each of our Eagle sons chose a challenging project and each remembers it fondly.
Our oldest son raised money and purchased children's books and blank cassette tapes (in the days before MP3 files). He and the members of his troop then read the books onto tapes, packaged them together in plastic bags and donated them to the local children's hospital.
Our next son mobilized his troop to spend time at a local cemetery verifying the records on each headstone and cataloging them so that the information could be digitized and then put on the Internet in a searchable database.
Our last son organized an awareness campaign in our area to help drivers learn to walk around their cars to check for children before backing up. He and his troop made an educational DVD which was distributed to every PTA in the area along with window clings and other awareness tools. He also had a booth at a number of community safety fairs in the area to promote his Spot the Tot campaign.
Keys to a Successful Eagle Project
Eagle Scout projects should provide significant service. Here are a few keys to selecting a project that will be successful.
- Make sure you get the project approved before starting. The Scouting program requires that a local group or individual approves all proposed projects to ensure that they meet the high standards of the Scouting program. Do not start the project until you have that approval. Your local Scoutmaster can help you get through that process.
- Read through and get familiar with the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook. This workbook, available from the Boy Scouts of America, is a must for young men, their parents and Scout leaders in planning these projects. Make a photocopy of the book first so that you can work up a draft of your project outline before submitting a final plan.
- Talk to other recent Eagle Scouts. Young men who have recently been awarded the Eagle badge will have already been through the process of choosing and executing a project. They probably have some ideas that they thought about and your Scout will be receptive to their counsel and ideas.
- Identify whom the project benefits. The project cannot benefit the Boy Scouts of America or the local troop. So make sure that you look outside the Scouting program for project ideaas.
- Seek a project that your Scout will be passionate about. If your Scout is into music more than into hiking and camping, then a trail building project may not be the bext. But he might organize a group of his music friends to teach music skills to a group of disadvantaged youth.
Finding Project Ideas
It can be tough to come up with a concept for your project. These resources will help you explore the world of opportunities and then narrow down to an area in which your boy has an interest.
- Talk to your local United Way. Virtually every community has a United Way chapter and they are aware of many social needs in your community. Check their website for contact information; many of them have Eagle project ideas listed on their website.
- Call your city's parks department or volunteer coordinator. Many cities and other local governments have a volunteer coordinator or perhaps the local parks superintendent could provide some good ideas. Cities often have money or materials to help with projects but could really use the volunteer labor. Or, if you are in an area with a National Forest, the US Forest Service sponsors many Eagle projects every year for trails, bridges, etc. in the forest.
- Check our VolunteerMatch. The people at VolunteerMatch maintain a database of volunteer help needed in communities sorted by Zip Code. You will probably find some project ideas or you may at least find some local agencies in need of volunteer help or projects.
- Search Volunteer.gov. The United States government maintains the Volunteer.gov site that aggregates volunteer opportunities in federal agencies like the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Interior, and Veterans Affairs, and the Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S.A. Freedom Corps.
Working with your Scout to choose a meaningful and memorable Eagle Scout project, and then supporting him through the effort, can make a positive difference for good in his life and in your local community