What makes a good Eagle Scout project?

(This is something I get questioned about regularly.)

Most people, when asked, can tell you what being an Eagle Scout means and what it represents. They will use some very supportive descriptions and positively flattering words, but they all have, as their core component, the “Eagle Scout is the best Scouting has to offer.”  In order for a Scout to demonstrate his best, the Eagle Project he chooses should be a reflection of his best abilities and his best skills. Ideally, the Project should be something he is proud to have accomplished, and not just something to “get it over with.”

Most of our Scouts have similar experiences while on the Trail to Eagle, but not all actually accomplish it. After all, it is very difficult, so it is not a surprise that only about 5 percent nationally of all scouts complete the Eagle requirements.  As with most, the Scout has progressed through the ranks, gone to summer camp, attended the merit badge classes at Sea Base a few times, and is beginning to focus on getting his Eagle. He has earned most of his merit badges, but he has put off tackling his project. For most Scouts, the “PROJECT” is a daunting proposition because it is unlike anything else they have done, either in or out of Scouting. For a select group there is even more pressure, because their 18th birthday is looming in the not too distant future.

As Scoutmaster, the first step I always share with a Scout thinking about an Eagle Project, is to go to our web site Eagles Nest page and download the guidelines and workbook documents located at the bottom of that page. Then I review with the Scout the guidelines listed there and the ones below.  Since the Scoutmaster is expected to give approval signatures twice during the life of the project in the workbook, and once on the Eagle Application, these guidelines need to be followed.

Experience over the years has shown me the hurdles our previous Eagle Candidates had to overcome.  During my various sessions with my subsequent Eagle Applicants, I have made it a point to ensure the following things are remembered; Scout must be active for at least 6 months as a Life Scout, a Life Scout is expected to show Scout Spirit, Scouts name should be on every document,  all safety issues need to be actively addressed before and during the Project, the Trip Plan ( old days called a Tour Permit) needs to be considered, properly signed Permission Slips are needed, adult support should be two deep minimum at all times, examples of donation requests need to be presented, fund raising efforts and the process used needs to be approved by Council at both the Pre Board and Final Board of Review, log of all actions with plans discussion includes contacts and meeting purpose needs to be kept, food or drink or shade needs to be provided for the workers if applicable, does scout have second ( back up) materials provider, what is the target schedule and what is backup plan if the original schedule is not capable of being kept, a mixture of older and younger boys at the Project, organizational questions at the Board addressing methodology ( Patrol Method ?), read the full Workbook along with the information in the back and be prepared to discuss anything mentioned in it, watch that all areas that require a signature actually has the signature and is the properly authorized signing representative,  a properly detailed description of present conditions before Project is discussed with the Board, complete materials list that include costs (even if they are donated, and indicate if they are donated), ability to discuss the technical method used to improve the conditions to include justifications for various decisions made, an implementation  time schedule that actually makes sense, clearly defined who will benefit from the Project and how, need to prove proper budget controls, full uniform worn at Council meetings,  sending out an appreciation letter to donators and  how were the people helping recruited?

Most importantly, the purpose of the Eagle Project is to demonstrate leadership. The purpose of the Eagle Project is not to get shelves built at the local women’s shelter or get books for the children’s area of the local hospital or to plant flowers at the church that sponsors the troop. A good Eagle project is any project that gives the Scout an opportunity to demonstrate leadership.
The project cannot be for profit. There are some specifically published areas that cannot profit from the Project.  The BSA organization cannot benefit from the project. A business cannot profit, and it cannot be of any commercial nature. The project cannot be a fundraiser. The Scout can, however, have a fundraiser to provide funds for his project. The fundraising cannot be used to demonstrate leadership as part of the project. The project cannot benefit an individual. The project cannot be routine maintenance or labor.

Except for these rather specific exceptions, the project can be almost anything else. Ideas for a project can come from many sources.  I almost always suggest the best and easiest Project to manage is one that solves a problem the Scout has identified for perhaps the Parks and Recreation department, his church, our sponsoring organization, a local hospital, or local shelters.

There is no minimum number of hours required to complete the project. The Scout needs to have a project that is complicated enough that he can clearly show leadership in the completion of the project. Projects must be individual projects. Two or more Scouts cannot work on the same project. Two projects can be in the same area. If the church wanted a new volleyball area, one project could be to level the area and build the court. A second project could be to build a fence around the court.

The approval process of the Project involves three authorities. They are the Scoutmaster, the Council’s Board and the Beneficiary Representative. This is established to help ensure the Project the Scout has proposed will allow him to demonstrate leadership to all three approving authorities throughout the Projects life cycle. The Scouts needs to keep in mind that any pre-approval of the project by these three authorities, does not automatically mean they will approve the way the project was carried out, or its end result. When the project is completed, and ready to be submitted to Council for consideration, the Eagle Applicant needs to sign it in the appropriate location, and then seek two more approval signatures; the Beneficiary’s approval indicating satisfactory completion and the Scoutmaster must approve the leadership manner in which the project was carried out.

A Scout usually demonstrates his leadership while carrying out his Project by properly using several process tools discussed with him to satisfy the requirements, and outlined in the Project Workbook. All are designed to share project information with the three authorities mentioned above, or the Scout’s labor force, or any support vendors or donators
Some of these leadership tools are; publishing and following a labor force work schedule, creating a materials list with budget and then tracking against it, enforcing safety procedures during the project, scheduling proper adult support for the project, keeping track of changes and the reasons for them, securing proper tools, securing any permits required, and having before /after photographs tracking the work is strongly suggested in the Workbook.

And finally, according to the BSA instructions about the Project, the Eagle Board of Review must approve the manner in which it is carried out as well. The following must be answered;

  • In what way did the Candidate demonstrate leadership of others?
  • There needs to be examples of how the Candidate directed the Project, rather than doing the work himself.
  • Did the Project follow the Plan?
  • If changes to the Plan were made, explain why the changes were necessary.

John Douglas, Scoutmaster, Dec 2011


Download WHITE PAPER What makes a good Eagle Scout project