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Boy scouting is a good way to teach a young man many new skills that aren’t normally be offered in school. There are character-building skills and communication skills. There are also goal-setting skills that come from advancement through the ranks, from Tenderfoot all the way up to Eagle.

Recognition for work well done can be earned in two ways: advancement through the ranks, or through merit badge work. Advancement is straightforward. The scouting ranks are, from lowest to highest, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and the most prestigious, Eagle. It usually takes a scout anywhere from three to five years to go though all the levels. The other way is through earning merit badges. There are over 100 merit badges that a scout can earn. To get to Eagle, for example, a scout only needs to earn 21: twelve of which are required and the other nine, which are “electives.” But the merit badge work can be useful in a different way besides advancement. It can offer a young man an opportunity to learn how to work toward a goal, it can keep him occupied in an activity that you approve, and it can be fun. To earn a merit badge, three things must occur:
1. The scoutmaster must give his approval of the work,
2. An adult counselor must be found who can actually test the scout on his knowledge, and
3. The scout must do the required work for the badge.

The level of merit badge work varies from badge to badge. Some badges are definitely for older scouts. Badges like First Aid, or American Business, or Archaeology are considered hard to attain. Some badges have multiple requirements; others have fewer. Some badges are good to work toward during the school year, like chemistry and atomic energy badges, and others during the summer time, like swimming, camping, or reading badges. So what are good merit badges for which a younger scout should strive?
Here are six that are considered easy: Art, Basketry, Leatherwork, Fingerprinting, Reading, and Music.

These badges are easy to earn because it normally takes less than a week to reach all of the requirements. The work for these badges can be done at home, and there is usually little expense involved, too. But even the work takes longer, it is generally not very time-consuming work.

Let’s take Art. Here are the requirements for the badge:
1. Tell a story with a picture or pictures.
2. Promote a product or an idea with a picture or pictures.
3. Record in an art medium something you have done or seen.
4. Decorate something with an original design. Put the design on Scout equipment, furniture, ceramics, or fabric.
5. Design something useful.
6. Render a subject of your choice in four of these ways: pen and ink, watercolor, pencil, pastel, oil, tempera, acrylic, or marker.
7. Discuss job opportunities in art.

This merit badge can be attained in a week. The cost is minimal, probably less than $20 for the art supplies.

Next let’s look at Basketry. Here are the requirements for the badge:
1. Plan and weave a large basket or tray. Use reed, raffia, or splints.
2. Weave a seat for a stool or chair. Use cane or rush.

You can buy the essential ingredients at a hobby or art supply store. The time frame is about a week.

Now let’s look at the third merit badge, Metalwork:
1. Use tin cans to make two useful things that need cutting, bending, and edging.
2. Make two (or more) useful things from metal that is 20 gauge or thicker. In making these, use each of the following methods:
a. Etch a design.
b. Hollow or otherwise shape a part.
c. Join two pieces of metal with solder or rivets.
d. Stamp a pattern with stamps you have made yourself.

You can get most of the information from the internet at www.artmetal.com. Again, the cost is modest. The time frame to completion is about two weeks.

Now let’s look at the requirements for the Fingerprinting merit badge:
1. Take a clear set of prints. Use both rolled and plain impressions. Make these on an 8-by-8-inch fingerprint identification card, available from your local police department or counselor.
2. Do the following:
a. Name the surfaces of the body where friction or papillary ridges are found.
b. Explain why plain impressions must be taken on a card.
3. Show you can identify the eight types of fingerprint patterns.
4. Give a short history of fingerprinting. Tell the difference between civil and criminal identification. Point out the purposes of each.

On the Internet, here is a good site that will provide you with a lot of information: http://onin.com/fp/fpmeritbdg.html#Requirements. The time frame for completing this work is about a week. The cost for the finger printing equipment is less than $20. You can make your own kit with common household items.

Let’s look at the Music merit badge requirements:
1. Sing or play a simple song or hymn chosen by your counselor. You must use good technique, phrasing, tone, rhythm, and dynamics.
2. Name the five general groups of musical instruments.
3. Do two of the following:
a. Go to a classical or semi-classical musical performance or listen to three hours of such programs on radio, television, compact discs, tapes, records, or videos. Report what you heard.
b. Outline the development of music in the United States.
4. Serve for six months as a member of a school, church, Scout unit, or other local musical organization, or perform as a soloist in public six times.
5. Do one of the following:
a. Teach three songs to a group of people.
b. Compose and write the score for a piece of music twelve measures or more.
c. Make a primitive instrument and learn to play it.
d. Catalog your own or your family's collection of twelve or more compact discs, tapes, or records. Show how to handle and store them.

For more information, check out: http://www.vl-music.com/. The cost of the merit badge is less than $20, unless you go to the concerts and buy the CDs; the time frame is about a week.

Finally, let’s look at the Reading merit badge requirements:
1. Learn how to use the library (card file or computer), and with the assistance of your counselor or your librarian, select six books of four diverse types (such as poetry, drama/plays, fiction, nonfiction, and biographies).
2. Read two books or material from any two sources (magazines, newspapers, field manuals, etc.) about the world around you and discuss your reading with your counselor.
3. From a catalog of your choice, fill out the application as if you intended to place an order, and discuss it with your counselor.
4. Choose one of the following activities and devote at least 4 hours of service to that activity:
a. Read to a sick, blind, or homebound person in a hospital or in an extended-care facility.
b. Perform volunteer work at a school or public library.
c. Read stories to younger children, in a group or individually.
d. Assist in a literacy program and discuss your participation with your counselor.

The work to attain this badge may take anywhere from one to two months because of the reading involved. But if your son already likes to read, then it may take a shorter amount of time. A librarian can act as a counselor. It is a good summertime merit badge.

That’s it. These six merit badges can give a young boy a sense of accomplishment early because the work doesn't take a lot of time, and the work is fun, too.