10 Unexpected Merit Badges

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There are certain Boy Scout/Girl Scout Merit badges you expect - Archery, Cooking, Camping, Safety, that sort of thing. But the Scouts have a more well-rounded nucleus of merit badge opportunities than you could ever imagine (well, unless you were a Scout). Here are 10 you may not have expected to find on a merit badge sash.



1. Dentistry. The dentistry badge first entered the scene in 1971. To earn the badge, Scouts have to study the tooth structure, write about what causes dental decay, arrange an educational visit to a dentist's office to help make teeth casts and get experience with some of the instruments, and finally, assist a dentist in performing a root canal. OK, I made that last one up. No root canal required - just an essay on fluoride (or something similar).

2. Cinematography. As you might suspect, this is a fairly modern badge and was introduced to the system for budding filmmakers. To earn this patch for their sash, Boy Scouts have to learn to use a tripod, pan a camera, frame a shot, select an angle and proper lighting, and learn how to shoot a handheld. And, with your parent's permission, of course, you should try to visit a film set to see how production work is done. Pretty cool!

3. Fingerprinting. Not surprisingly, this one originated in the '30s, just as Eliot Ness and the Untouchables were making detective work cool. This one, of course, involves taking prints and identifying all of the unique characteristics of each one - loops and whorls and all of that fun stuff. But they also require Scouts to get into the science of fingerprints and why they form the way the form.

4. Nuclear Science. Yep - horsemanship, firebuilding, canoeing and Nuclear Science. The Scouts are seriously sophisticated - and socially responsible (which is a duh statement, I suppose). Scouts dig deep into the effects and dangers of radiation, report on people who have contributed to the field of atomic energy, use a radiation meter, build an electroscope or a build a model of a reactor. That's some pretty heavy-duty stuff!

5. Railroading. I love this one because my dad's a railroader and I love that railroads are still relevant to the Scouts when they could be earning badges in aerospace engineering and space exploration. The railroading badge requires being able to differentiate between different types of railroad cars, understand railroad safety, and then complete a project that can include taking a trip on the rails and reporting on what was seen, building a model railroad or visiting a railroad museum and checking out the history. Doesn't that sound like fun? Or am I just a total geek? OK, maybe don't answer that.

6. B Extreme! Girl Scout group 24 observed that if a girl was into an extreme sport such as snowboarding or spelunking, she was kind of out of luck when it came to earning a merit badge in that area of interest. So they suggested "B Extreme," which allows girls to become accomplished in the extreme sports arena, even if they live in the desert and want to learn about white water rafting. Simply researching and reporting on the sport is enough to earn a merit badge. A skateboarding suggestion includes learning the physics behind some of the tricks: "Consider Newton's First Law of Motion, which states that an object in motion will stay in motion and an object at rest will stay at rest unless the object is acted upon by an outside force. What outside forces are at play while doing an "ollie"?"

7. Couch Potato. This Girl Scout badge might sound like it's all about watching Gilmore Girls reruns and snacking on Doritos, but it actually can end up being an in-depth analysis of gender portrayals in the media, or a careful consideration of the nutritional value of some of the snacks we mindlessly consume while wondering exactly why we continue to watch The Hills.

8. CyberGirl Scout Badge. OK, minds out of the gutters, this one is actually about Internet safety, among other things. To earn this one, kids can research why they might need to use the Internet with a parent or guardian and an Internet scavenger hunt for the answers to Girl Scout-related trivia. This one is for Girl Scout Juniors - grades four and five.

9. Hi-Tech Hide and Seek. Geocaching - hiding some sort of a treasure in a public place and then giving clues to people over the Internet as to where the goodies can be found - and it has become so popular that it now has its own merit badge. "Letterboxing" is the same thing, except Geocaching makes use of a GPS and the finder usually gets to keep the geocached treasure. The prize in a letterbox is usually just a logbook that people sign when they discover it.

10. Sew Glam. This goes far beyond the simple sewing buttons and darning socks our moms might have earned sewing badges for back in the day. "Sew Glam" introduces girls to the world of creative solutions when it comes to a needle and thread (and glue gun and pinking shears and bleach pens and sequins...). The Required Activity asks Scouts to take a pair of jeans - Target, thrift-store finds, or already-owned ones - and make them their own. No iron-ons are allowed, but basically anything else goes.

Did you get any merit badges that are kind of out of the ordinary? Share in the comments!

Sash photo from Babble.com.
Boy Scout Merit Badge photos from Girl Scout Merit Badges photos from GirlScoutShop.com.

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Here's a great one I earned. It's called Word's Rock! and it's about Scrabble. You have to research Alfred Butts (the game's creator), rules of the game, words you can make, ect. Kind of strange... http://www.girlscoutsaz.org/files/Words%20Rock%20Patch%20Program%20.pdf
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Evil Mad Scientist has one of the best ideas for a badge that I hope it will one day be incorperated into the Boy Scouts' official list: a circuit designing badge.
http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/softmerit
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I'm impressed by the boy scout who made the little reactor to bombard thorium with neutrons in his mother's
garden shed:
http://www.wesjones.com/silverstein1.htm
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I used to work at Seven Ranges Scout Reservation in Ohio from 2001-2003 in the "ecology" department and we taught a ton of awesome merit badges like Bird Study, Energy, Atomic Energy, Space Exploration, Environmental Science, Fish and Wildlife Management, Forestry, Geology, Mammal Study, Nature, Oceanography (yes, in Ohio lol), Reptile and Amphibian Study, Soil and Water Conservation, Weather, and Astronomy (my favorite). Fun times!
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