The highest honor in Scouting is earning the rank of Eagle, but have you heard of the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and the Distinguished Conservation Award? Surprisingly, these awards can be earned on the path to Eagle, and are perfect options for the extra-motivated Scout. In this article, get ready to learn about these awards, along with some great hacks to earn them on your path to Eagle!
The trick to earning the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and the Distinguished Conservation Award on your path to Eagle Scout lies in the merit badges you choose. Did you know that Scouts can earn all 3 of these awards by just earning 22 specific merit badges and completing a few extra challenges? It’s true!
A smart and generous ASM named Bill H reached out with this information, and what he shared is something I think all Scouts should pay attention to. Earning these extra awards will help Scouts with college acceptances, and teach them about important topics like conservation and outdoor expertise!
So, get ready to dive into Bill’s extraordinary advice on the smartest to become an Eagle Scout, while also earning the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and the Distinguished Conservation Award!
The Smartest Way To Become an Eagle Scout
To earn Eagle, the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and the Distinguished Conservation Award, a Scout must complete 2 additional training courses, 125 nights of camping, 15 adventure activities, 16 months in a leadership role, 50 hours of conservation work, 2 conservation projects, and 22 merit badges. That may sound like quite a bit, but you’ll have your entire Scouting career to do it!
Every merit badge in Scouting represents an opportunity to explore an interest, learn something new, and become a more capable individual. Still, you can’t do everything! That’s why you should be strategic about the merit badges you take on. I bet you’d agree that earning three awards at the same time will be a great use of your time and energy!
This chart below shows which badges work for each award. And, as you can see, there’s a lot of overlap! Most of the badges are focused on camping and the outdoors, which means not only can you progress very quickly, but you’ll have a lot of fun and outdoor adventures at the same time. 😀
You can check out my guides to the Eagle-required badges right here. However, to earn the Distinguished Conservation Award and National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, you only need to earn the following badges, in addition to those you’re already required to earn for Eagle:
- Fish and Wildlife Management
- Soil and Water Conservation
- Environmental Science and Sustainability (Doing 1 is already Eagle-required)
- Wilderness Survival
With these, you’re provided with enough extra badges that you don’t need to look anywhere else for elective badges to earn for your Eagle rank. That gives you more energy to put into your Eagle project! Plus, if you’re interested in the outdoors or sustainability, pursuing these awesome awards might feel like a no-brainer. 😉
Are you thinking about your Eagle project, but not sure where to start? Check out our 5-step guide on how to plan an Eagle project!
Why Earn Individual Awards In BSA Scouts?
Every BSA Scout is expected to progress through the ranks and earn the Eagle-required merit badges. To stand out and make the most of Scouting, you should aim even higher! That’s where the individual awards like the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and Distinguished Conservation Service Award truly shine.
Both of these awards – which you can earn on the path to Eagle – are rare honors. When you earn these awards, you will be among the best of the best in Scouting! Most important of all, what you learn from earning each award can be carried with you for the rest of your life. 😀
So, let’s talk about the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and Distinguished Conservation Service Award in more detail below!
The National Medal For Outdoor Achievement
When it comes to camping and the outdoors, the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement is the highest honor a Scout can earn! The path to this rare achievement isn’t easy, but the journey will give you experience in leadership, planning, management, and logistics while teaching you valuable skills.
Plus, after reading the last section, you now know the most straight forward way that the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement can be earned! The requirements for the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement are as follows:
- Earn the First Class rank.
- Earn the National Outdoor Badge for Camping with a silver device. (This requires 125 nights of camping)
- Earn any two additional National Outdoor Badges, each with two gold devices.
- Complete the requirements for all of the following: Backpacking merit badge or Ranger Backpacking elective; Emergency Preparedness merit badge or Ranger Emergency Preparedness core; Nature merit badge; and Wilderness Survival merit badge or Ranger Wilderness Survival core.
- Complete a 16-hour course in Wilderness First Aid from the American Red Cross, Wilderness Medical Institute, or other recognized provider.
- Become a Leave No Trace Level 1 Instructor (formerly called Trainer) by completing the 16-hour training course from a recognized Leave No Trace Level 2 Instructor (formerly called Master Educator).
- Plan and lead, with the approval of your unit leader, an outing for your patrol or troop in two of the following activity areas: hiking and backpacking, aquatics activities, or riding. Include in each outing a service element addressing recreational impacts resulting from that type of activity. With the approval of your unit leader, you may plan and lead the outings for another Cub Scout pack or Scout troop.
- Complete at least one of the following:
- Plan and lead, with the approval of your unit leader, an adventure activity identified in the National Outdoor Badge for Adventure for your troop or patrol.
- Successfully complete a season on a council summer camp staff in an outdoor area, such as aquatics, Scoutcraft, nature/environment, climbing, or COPE.
With my set of handy guides, earning merit badges will be the easy part of this award! However, the requirements go beyond merit badges to include training sessions, leadership, and working as part of the staff at a camp or outdoor area. So, why go for this award in the first place?
Simply put, working through these requirements will make you a better Scout and a better person. The skills you practice for this award will be carried forward into your life and career, no matter what you do! So go ahead — seize this once-in-a-lifetime experience while you can.
The Distinguished Conservation Service Award
The Distinguished Conservation Service Award is the highest honor a Scout can earn regarding conservation and the environment. This award was created to recognize outstanding sustainability efforts by Scouts that teach others and improve their community!
- Be a First Class Scout.
- Earn the following five Merit Badges: Environmental Science, Fish and Wildlife Management, Forestry, Soil and Water Conservation, and Sustainability.
- Earn any two of the following Merit Badges: Bird Study, Energy, Fishing, Fly‐Fishing, Gardening, Geology, Insect Study, Landscape Architecture, Mammal Study, Nature, Nuclear Science, Oceanography, Plant Science, Pulp and Paper, Reptile and Amphibian Study, or Weather.
- Plan, lead, and carry out two conservation projects, from two different categories:
- Air and Water Pollution Control
- Energy Conservation
- Fish and Wildlife Management Forestry and Range Management
- Hazardous Materials Disposal and Management
- Invasive Species Control
- Pollinator Management
- Resource Recovery
- Soil & Water Conservation
- (The projects must be developed under the guidance and pre‐approval of the Scout’s Unit Leader, a BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award Adviser, and the Council Conservation Committee. All projects must contribute to environment improvement on a long-term scale. Applicants must use the BSA Distinguished Conservation Service Award Workbook to document each of the service projects.)
- Successfully pass a board of review conducted by the local Council’s Conservation Committee.
Scouting Tip: One of the two conservation projects for Requirement 4 may include your Eagle Scout project, if applicable!
By following my guide for merit badges and developing a conservation Eagle project, you will earn 95% of the requirements for this award! The best part is that you are also progressing towards Eagle and the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, all at the same time. I wish I had been this efficient when I was going for Eagle!
Badge Pairings Tips for Reaching Eagle While Earning Awards
The first group of badges that you can work on at the same time are Backpacking, Camping, and Wilderness Survival. The requirements for each are similar and are perfect to work on during a Scouting trip or, as I did, at summer camp!
Scouting Memory: There are some camping experiences you just don’t forget. I still remember spending the night in a lean-to I put together out of nothing but sticks, pine needles, and a few logs!
Soil and Water Conservation and Sustainability also work well together and can be easily worked on during your regular Troop meetings! Sustainability is required for Eagle, while Soil and Water Conservation is required for the Distinguished Conservation Service Award.
First Aid and Emergency Preparedness are two of the most important merit badges you can earn. Each one teaches you skills that help save lives in an emergency! Both badges are also required for Eagle and the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement. 🙂
Training Sessions for the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement
Double-dipping on merit badges will help, but for the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, you will also have to complete two separate training sessions: Wilderness First Aid and the Leave No Trace Level 1 Instructor Course. Each course will take 16 hours, they’ll also teach you valuable skills!
Scouting Tip: You must be at least 14 years old and already have your CPR certification to participate in Wilderness First Aid.
Best of all, by completing the Leave No Trace Level 1 Instructor Course, you will be a certified trainer and can run your own training sessions! This is an important and fun way to give back to Scouting. Talk to your Scoutmaster about upcoming training sessions so that you don’t miss out!
Conclusion – Going Beyond Eagle
Earning the rank of Eagle is an incredible accomplishment, but going beyond the Eagle rank and earning the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement and the Distinguished Conservation Service Award puts you in an elite group of Scouts. By following this guide, earning each award alongside your Eagle can be efficient and easy!
In general, when earning each of your ranks, watch for merit badges required to earn Eagle and get those along the way. “Double-dipping” merit badges will save you time that you can use to plan your conservation projects and your Eagle project and attend the required training sessions!
I really hope this article inspires you to go beyond the call of duty and earn some extra awards! Along the journey, you’ll be sure to learn a ton and grow into the best Scout you can be. Next up, don’t forget to check out any of the following articles if they spark your interest:
- 99 Quotes For BSA Scouts: Inspiration On Your Scouting Adventure
- The Importance of Scouting (And Its Relevance Today)
- Advance Fast in Scouting (5 Rank-Up Keys To Help You Earn Eagle)
- The Scout Law: What To Know To Be The Best Scout You Can Be
- The Essential Camp Packing List: A Scout’s Trek Gear Checklist
I hope you found this guide helpful — whether you’re a seasoned BSA Scout, a beginner, or a Cub Scout looking to be prepared, Scouting is truly full of unique, fun, and even life-changing opportunities. You should definitely take advantage of all you can. Until next time, happy Scouting!