Mike Walton (blackeagle)

Service Project?
By: Posted On: 2020-05-04

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Joe Csatari (BSA Image used under Fair Usage Policy)


A Frequently Asked Question of Scouters like myself is one which Mike Clark wrote and asked recently:

"Has anyone defined "a service project"?"

Service project: an individual or group event designed to demonstrate elements of community pride, volunteerism, and/or dedication to principles of the individual or group involved. Activities that "give back" or "pay forward" similar type activities performed for the individual or group. (my personal definition of what a "service project" is)

"Why Community Organizations such as the Boy & Girl Scouts, our religious groups, civic and fraternal groups do Service Projects?"

Schools also perform service projects. They do so as I wrote above -- to show pride in their community, to volunteer time and energy to those who cannot or choose not to perform the actions or activity, to further cement those ideals which form in part the basis of their organization. In doing those things, Mike, they also promote the organization or group and build awareness of their good and value to others.

"Moreover, what is the purpose of Service Projects in the BSA starting within the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturing, Order of the Arrow, etc. ??"

Service projects universally bring home the Scouting ideals -- the "help others" and "be a good citizen" parts of the basic Scouting ideals. Cub Scouts perform service projects to learn how to be a part of an activity that does not benefit the Cub Scout. Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts perform service projects to "help other people" and to demonstrate elements of good civics and being a community member. Same goes for Venturing/Sea Scouting except at that age, and they are looking for ways to better their community and the lot of life of those affected through the performance of a "public good turn" through leadership of service projects and not so much participation in them. The Order of the Arrow is a part of the Boy Scout/Varsity Scout program and performs service projects in the same vein.

While many parents will say, "oh, they're doing it for a badge," they miss the boat completely!  Service projects, by their nature, do not "equate" to a badge. A Scout or Venturer can participate in any number of projects with no "award" to earn as a result. No, I take it back - the cumulative efforts of individuals may result in some sort of badge, pin or certificate. It's not the MAIN effort.

What about those project hours required for a Scout rank? What about the Eagle project? Where does that fit in? The project hours that Tenderfoot, First Class, and Star Scouts participate in are geared as educational steps more so than advancement steps.

Tenderfoot Scouts participate in an hour of service so that they understand that Scouting isn't just camping and being in the outdoors -- that there's a citizenship and personal character bent to what a Scout is. The First Class and Star Scout, working on those six hours of service to earn Star and Life rank, are exposed to other's Eagle and other programs' pinnacle ways of giving back to a community, group of individuals, or individuals.

The Eagle Scout project is more of a leadership application experience than the actual service itself -- we ask Life Scout candidates for Eagle to plan, develop, engineer, lead/conduct and evaluate something to benefit others. It is his leadership which will be called into play by the members of his Board of Review for Eagle and much of the discussion should be based upon what he did, how he structured the project, who did it benefit and why did he choose those benefactors, and how did he feel he did as a project manager and leader.

Mike Clark also wrote/asked in part:

"IMHO: Service projects through the program build upon each other are "age-appropriate" leading up to those specific projects which are required for a National award such as Eagle Scout, Ranger, Quartermaster, etc.."

It may not be that way, Mike. Many Cub Scouts perform service projects at a level well above their age and/or grade levels. A good Boy Scout Troop -- one of the indicators parents ask me to "give" when finding a new Troop -- has four service projects or more a year including a conservation/ecology based one and an educational project. I am working as part of a committee to include service as the core element in the Corps of Discovery (COD) movement -- I personally feel that the more that COD members get into the community and do things for others -- the more that the rest of the Venturing community and eventually the BSA itself -- will see COD as a good, positive outlet for Venturers to become a part of and will formally incorporate it as a part of the Venturing program.

 "A service project done with the Troop setting should have a differentiated level from Tenderfoot/2nd Class/1st Class, Star, Life, then Eagle. Each builds upon the former instilling leadership and character development."

I disagree. Service projects should be simple enough for the newest members to understand and participate in but scalable enough for the senior members of the unit to be able to take leadership in them in full or part. An Eagle service project may take the role of several "assistant leaders" or supervisors, all reporting to and interacting with the Eagle candidate himself.

I wrote the following question to the BSA's Advancement Team about the need for Scouts to be "in uniform" while performing service projects (no, I don't have a "secret decoder ring" or something to get them to answer me...you can do the same thing by posting your question or concern to advancement.team@scouting.org but hey -- do them a favor please and ask your local Council first and then if you don't get a (good) answer, to post them. Thanks!)

Here's what I wrote and asked:

"Hey, fellow Scouters!

I've looked in both the current editions of the Guide to Advancement and the Eagle Scout Leadership/Service Project booklet, but it's not there.

The questions posed to me this morning got me stumped; I thought that one or the other addressed this:

"What is the uniform for participating and/or leading a service project? Can a Scoutmaster "mandate" or "require" the wear of the field uniform by Scouts working on or leading service projects? While it's a great practice that Scouts should be in uniform, what happens when the Scout performs the service, and the Scoutmaster says, "uh-huh...nope, it doesn't count because you were not in uniform at the time of the service?"

If there's guidance somewhere in either or both publications, please let me know...I'll share it also with those asking!"

Mike LoVecchio (I hope I spelled his name right...it's hard to break in new names *grinning*) the team lead/advisor of the BSA's National Advancement Team responded this morning:

 "Good Morning Mike,

We provide no mandate that the field uniform has to be worn for Eagle Scout service projects. Why would a unit leader mandate the wearing of the uniform (rhetorical)? Would you wear your field uniform to pour concrete, or during a landscaping project, etc.? Common sense should prevail. The unit leader cannot mandate the wearing of the uniform - he would be adding requirements. Let this unit leader show us where it is written that the uniform must be worn for the project to count. Let's be realistic here! This is not in the GTA or the workbook.

Mike "

So there we have it...straight from the BSA: there is NO REQUIREMENT (as I stated earlier) for a Life Scout/Eagle Scout candidate (or any other Scout) to be in a field uniform as part of completing his Eagle Scout leadership/service project. It's NICE...and depending on what he's doing, maybe a GOOD THING...but for the most part, Scouts perform service projects in the clothing they come to work in.

If someone (that Scoutmaster, the chartered organization, or the benefactor) needs to get a little PR in...there's signs available from the Scout Shop(TM) or trading post similar to those ones posted by contractors or firms announcing that "this project is being done by..." They could be posted in front of the facility or home or alongside a roadway (check with local ordinances however) to announce that an Eagle Scout leadership/service project is being conducted HERE.

Thanks to Mike Clark for asking me, and thanks to Mike Lo and the volunteers on the NAT for answering the question!



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