Service projects offer opportunities to help the community, and also to learn and demonstrate leadership by planning, directing and following through an idea to a successful completion. Service projects are an important part of Scouting and memories of service projects you have done will be a big part of your Scouting memories later in life.
Scouts working on Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class have to take part in service activities for 1, 2, or 3 hours, and to discuss how their service relates to Scouting’s ideals. The ranks of Star and Life each call upon you to give at least 6 hours of service to the community while in rank, with conservation a particular focus of Life service projects. Troop 149 has seen that Scouts who give leadership to a service activity at the Star and Life levels, rather than being simply a participant as in the earlier ranks, are better prepared for their Eagle service project. Leading a smaller project before Eagle also allows for a feeling of “ownership”, and increases the amount of service we provide to the community. Therefore, the Troop Committee encourages and “challenges” Scouts to consider leading their own Star and Life service projects, for at least some of the “hours” needed for those ranks. Scouts who want to give leadership to service activities for Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class are also free to do so.
The Eagle Scout project specifically requires that you be the project leader. While a Life Scout, you must plan, develop, and provide leadership to others in a service project of real value benefiting the environment, your community or a religious group, school, or other worthy group. However, if you have already gotten practice with planning, communicating, recruiting, and such during earlier projects, the Eagle Project will seem like a familiar process and you will be ready to take it on with experience.
Service projects do not have to be based on original ideas, but they can be. In fact, there are several recurring service projects that Scouts in our troop typically take responsibility for every year, such as the church luminaries, Norton Road clean up, preschool playground mulching, and the occasional flag retirement ceremony. Eagle projects usually are a bit more challenging and often are for a non-profit or a cause that is important for the Scout. Service projects can take many forms – river or road cleanups; grounds maintenance at our sponsoring church; improving wildlife habitat at Sandy Creek; volunteering at a hospital or with a public safety group; organizing a recycling effort; teaching skills at a community event; moving boxes for a non-profit; building an outdoor classroom or benches; or many more ideas. Ideas for service projects may come from calls or conversations with school administrators, community leaders, church members, law enforcement officers, and park department or land management personnel. Our troop service project coordinators and our sponsoring organization may also have a “wish list” of ideas that the community has asked for help with. For the rank of Life, at least three hours of service should be “conservation related”—such as mulching for erosion control, removing invasive species, cleaning a river, etc.
A service project should “reach out” – outside the troop and Scouting, benefitting the community. Projects that help our troop or a BSA property could qualify as a leadership project, but wouldn’t be used as community service. The service project also shouldn’t be “routine labor” or something you would do anyway. The project should not be performed for a business, be of a commercial nature, or be a fundraiser. (Fundraising is allowed for securing materials or supplies needed to carry out your project, but at the Eagle level has to be approved by the Council.)
There are no specific requirements for the size of the service project (other than the minimum hours listed in the rank requirements), as long as the project is helpful to a non-profit, religious organization, school, or community. The amount of time spent by you in planning your project and the actual working time spent in carrying out the project should be as much as necessary to complete what the benefiting group needs, and to organize it smoothly, and we encourage you to track it and report it. Taking on your own project at any level can give you the chance to practice planning, thinking about steps, safety, equipment, people, etc., as well as being the leader at work-days, which is a great experience. Generally your first effort at planning a project may start small. While there’s not a time requirement for Eagle projects, many of those in our troop have involved over 100 hours and more than one work-day to complete.
You should discuss your service project ideas with the troop’s Service Project Coordinator or the Scoutmaster before investing a lot of time planning the project. They can provide guidance to help you select and plan your service project.
Service activities used for rank advancement must be approved by the Scoutmaster before you start work on the service. In our troop, the Scoutmaster asks Scouts who are leading a project to talk with the Service Project Coordinator for advice and guidance, and to have a written project proposal, which they present to the Troop Committee for their input and approval. (We have a form that can help you think through the steps; see the Resources page.) Generally, this should be done a couple meetings before you plan to carry out the project, so you have time to plan and recruit project helpers.
Eagle Scout projects have their own project workbook and require approval of the Scoutmaster, Troop Committee, the beneficiary, and the district Eagle Advancement Chair. Eagle Project proposals should be discussed extensively with the Scoutmaster and the troop’s Eagle coordinator. Once signed off by the Troop Committee, the Scoutmaster, and the organization that is receiving the project, Eagle project proposals must be emailed for approval to the Cherokee District Eagle Board at firstname.lastname@example.org and copied to the troop Eagle coordinator or Scoutmaster. The district Eagle Chair and committee will provide feedback, may request changes, and will give final approval to begin.
Once the project is approved and dates set, announce the dates and times on the listserv and at meetings to make sure you have the right number of people taking part. However, you need to also ask people directly and recruit by phone or in person – don’t rely on the listserv for recruiting helpers.
If you are proposing your own project, you should be prepared to explain what you plan to do, why, and how. What is the project/activity? Why is it needed? How will you carry it out? Where and when will you do it? Where will you get the materials? Who will help? What safety concerns are there and how will you address them (be sure to refer to the BSA Safe Tool Use guidelines)? How will you provide leadership? A thorough proposal shows that you have thought about the project and are prepared for success. You need to have two adults (at least) who have agreed to be at your project to provide adult supervision.
Often, Scouts leading up a project will provide food or refreshments to participating helpers. Other logistical questions might include what supplies and tools are needed for the service activity; who will provide supplies (like mulch, trash bags, etc.); and whether you need any special permissions or permits (for digging, for instance). Even if you’re not doing an Eagle project, the Eagle workbook can be a helpful resource for thinking about some of these questions.
After you have talked with the Service Project Coordinator and have a written proposal, present it to the Troop Committee during a troop meeting for their feedback and approval. Bring copies of your proposal write-up. The committee may ask you to make changes or even come back and present again if there are major concerns or questions that you aren’t ready to answer. You can use the Service Project Proposal form to present a non-Eagle project proposal to the Troop Committee, and the Eagle Scout Project Workbook for Eagle.
Think about the following things as you plan and perform your project:
Why is the service helpful to the religious institution, school or community group?
What are you learning by leading or taking part in the project?
If you are the project leader, how will you be sure you, not your parent or some other adult, is the one who is in charge of the project?
How is leading a project different than doing all the work yourself?
Is the project following the plan? If not, what changes are being made?
Be prepared to discuss your project and its outcomes in your Scoutmaster’s Conference and Boards of Review.
Keep track of your efforts as you plan and carry out your service. Have a sign-in and sign-out page of who helped and how much time was spent on the project. Take pictures of you and others participating in your service projects. You can submit projects to the local paper or church bulletin, and turn in at least one photo of your project for the troop website and for the Troop scrapbook. Remember, your project could be an inspiration for future Scouts!
We also have a short Service Project Report form (see the Resource page) that you can use to document your service project; turn it in to the service project chair and they can also sign off your completion in your Handbook.