Ready to embark on one of the most thrilling adventures of your Scouting journey? Dive into the world of exploration, where every step you take unveils a new discovery, and every challenge you face sharpens your skills. Earning the Exploration merit badge is your ticket to understanding the world in ways you’ve never imagined! 😀
Through completing the Exploration merit badge requirements, you’ll discover the rich history of exploration, understand how exploration is still happening in the modern day, and even learn how to put together an expedition of your own. Get ready for an exciting adventure ahead!
If you‘d like my help with any Eagle-required badges, you should definitely check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I know this resource will be helpful to Scouts on their road to Eagle!
Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!
First things first, let’s clear up a common misconception: Exploration isn’t just about packing a bag and heading off into the wilderness. Expeditions are all about diving deep into the unknown, pushing boundaries, and better understanding our world — from the ocean’s depths to the vastness of space.
So, gear up, future Eagle Scout! Whether you’re dreaming of charting unknown territories, understanding the ethics behind responsible expeditions, or even eyeing a future career in the field, this badge is your gateway to exploration. Ready to begin the adventure?
Your first step is to be prepared! Let’s begin by reading and understanding all of the requirements that’ll be necessary to earn your Exploration merit badge.
What Are The Exploration Merit Badge Requirements?
- General Knowledge. Do the following:
1a. Define exploration and explain how it differs from adventure travel, trekking or hiking, tour-group trips, or recreational outdoor adventure trips.
1b. Explain how approaches to exploration may differ if it occurs in the ocean, in space, in a jungle, or in a science lab in a city.
- History of Exploration. Discuss with your counselor the history of exploration. Select a field of study with a history of exploration to illustrate the importance of exploration in the development of that field (for example, aerospace, oil industry, paleontology, oceanography, etc.).
- Importance of Exploration. Explain to your counselor why it is important to explore. Discuss the following:
3a. Why it is important for exploration to have a scientific basis
3b. How explorers have aided in our understanding of our world
3c. What you think it takes to be an explorer
- Real-Life Exploration. Do ONE of the following:
4a. Learn about a living explorer. Create a short report or presentation (verbal, written, or multimedia slide presentation) on this individual’s objectives and the achievements of one of the explorer’s expeditions. Share what you have learned with your counselor and unit.
4b. Learn about an actual scientific exploration expedition. Gather information about the mission objectives and the expedition’s most interesting or important discoveries. Share what you have learned with your counselor and unit. Tell how the information gained from this expedition helped scientists answer important questions.
4c. Learn about types of exploration that may take place in a laboratory or scientific research facility (medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc.). Explain to your counselor how laboratory research and exploration are similar to field research and exploration.
- Exploration in Lab and Field. Do ONE of the following, and share what you learn with your counselor:
5a. With your parent’s permission and counselor’s approval, visit either in person or via the internet an exploration sponsoring organization (such as The Explorers Club, National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution, Alpine Club, World Wildlife Fund, or similar organization). Find out what type(s) of exploration the organization supports.
5b. With permission and approval, visit either in person or via the internet a science lab, astronomical observatory, medical research facility, or similar site. Learn what exploration is done in this facility.
- Expedition Planning. Discuss with your counselor each of the following steps for conducting a successful exploration activity. Explain the need for each step.
6a. Identify the objectives (establish goals).
6b. Plan the mission. Create an expedition agenda or schedule. List potential documents or permits needed.
6c. Budget and plan for adequate financial resources. Estimate costs for travel, equipment, accommodations, meals, permits or licenses, and other expedition expenses.
6d. Determine equipment and supplies required for personal and mission needs for the length of the expedition.
6e. Determine communication and transportation needs. Plan how to keep in contact with your base or the outside world, and determine how you will communicate with each other on-site.
6f. Establish safety and first aid procedures (including planning for medical evacuation). Identify the hazards that explorers could encounter on the expedition, and establish procedures to prevent or avoid those hazards.
6g. Determine team selection. Identify who is essential for the expedition to be successful and what skills are required by the expedition leader.
6h. Establish detailed recordkeeping (documentation) procedures. Plan the interpretation and sharing of information at the conclusion of the expedition.
- Prepare for an Expedition. With your parent’s permission and counselor’s approval, prepare for an actual expedition to an area you have not previously explored; the place may be nearby or far away. Do the following:
7a. Make your preparations under the supervision of a trained expedition leader, expedition planner, or other qualified adult experienced in exploration (such as a school science teacher, museum representative, or qualified instructor).
7b. Use the steps listed in requirement 6 to guide your preparations. List the items of equipment and supplies you will need. Discuss with your counselor why you chose each item and how it will be of value on the expedition. Determine who should go on the expedition.
7c. Conduct a pre-expedition check, covering the steps in requirement 6, and share the results with your counselor. With your counselor, walk through the Sweet Sixteen of BSA Safety for your expedition. Ensure that all foreseeable hazards for your expedition are adequately addressed.
- Go on an Expedition. Complete the following:
8a. With your parent’s permission and under the supervision of your merit badge counselor or a counselor-approved qualified person, use the planning steps you learned in requirement 6 and the preparations you completed in requirement 7 to personally undertake an actual expedition to an area you have not previously explored.
8b. Discuss with your counselor what is outdoor ethics and its role in exploration and enjoying the outdoors responsibly.
8c. After you return, compile a report on the results of your expedition and how you accomplished your objective(s). Include a statement of the objectives, note your findings and observations, include photos, note any discoveries, report any problems or adverse events, and have a conclusion (whether you reached your objective or not). The post-expedition report must be at least one page and no more than three; one page can be photos, graphs, or figures.
- Career Opportunities. Identify three career opportunities in exploration. Pick one and explain to your counselor how to prepare for such a career. Discuss what education and training are required, and why this profession might interest you.
1a) Define exploration and explain how it differs from adventure travel, trekking or hiking, tour-group trips, or recreational outdoor adventure trips.
To earn your Exploration merit badge, you’ll first need to know what exploration is, as well as how it differs from other types of outdoor activities. Exploration itself is defined as the act of searching, with the goal being the discovery of new resources or information.
What exploration really comes down to is the pursuit of knowledge. Every expedition has a scientific basis, where information is collected and shared to further humankind’s understanding of our world! This is different from other kinds of trips like travel or tours, and you’ll see why below:
- Adventure travel is a little different. This is simply about going on an adventure and discovering new things. There is usually no scientific basis here, and adventure travel is mainly done for fun. 😛
- Trekking and hiking just involve traveling along a certain path, usually one that has already been explored. Hiking and trekking often don’t involve discovering any new things or information.
- Tour group trips aren’t necessarily about discovering new information, but simply about learning information that has already been confirmed. This usually takes place alongside other people.
- Recreational outdoor adventure trips are also generally just for fun. These usually have nothing to do with scientific fact or discovering new information, but are definitely a blast to participate in!
1b) Explain how approaches to exploration may differ if it occurs in the ocean, in space, in a jungle, or in a science lab in a city.
The area that you are exploring will determine how the expedition occurs. After all, you can’t explore an ocean in the same way that you can explore space! To better answer this requirement, let’s take a quick look at the different ways in which oceans, space, the jungle, or a laboratory setting might be explored.
Exploring the Ocean
Exploring the ocean involves dealing with an underwater environment. This is characterized by high pressure, darkness, and limited visibility. Remotely operated vehicles, scuba diving equipment, and submersibles are generally used to navigate the deep sea’s inhospitable terrain.
Safety in the ocean is a big concern due to rapid changes in conditions, marine life encounters, and equipment failure. Plus, ocean expeditions can often vary from lasting several weeks to several months. Why do this? Well, the point of exploring the ocean is to study marine life, geology, and underwater systems!
Space exploration takes place in the vacuum of space, where there is no gravity or atmosphere. Rockets, shuttles, space probes, telescopes, robotics, and spacecraft are used for this purpose. Space exploration requires extensive training to survive in a very harsh environment.
Space missions sometimes range from several days to several years in length, and require extensive planning. The objective of exploring space is to understand celestial bodies and the universe, as well as the potential for human colonization! Sounds outta this world! 😀
Exploring a Jungle
Exploring the jungle happens on land, usually in humid and dense forests with many different types of plants and wildlife. Surviving in a jungle involves dealing with unpredictable weather, insects, and hostile wildlife, which is why explorers often bring along GPS devices, wilderness survival gear, and teammates.
Jungle explorations usually last for several weeks, but in the past they could last for months if the goal was to discover new territories. The goal of jungle exploration today is usually to focus on biodiversity research, ethnobotany, and understanding the ecological impact of humans on the world.
Exploration in a Lab
Science labs are controlled environments with known variables. Here, safety protocols are used to prevent biological, chemical, and physical hazards. Personal protective equipment is also used, alongside specialized scientific instruments, spectrometers, microscopes, and plenty of other tools for experiments.
Most exploring today occurs in a scientific lab, as scientists are always seeking new medicines, technologies, and materials to advance humankind! Though this type of exploration lacks predators or inhospitable weather, there are still risks like spills to be careful of. Laboratories may be the most important type of exploration of all in the 21st century!
2) History of Exploration. Discuss with your counselor the history of exploration. Select a field of study with a history of exploration to illustrate the importance of exploration in the development of that field (for example, aerospace, oil industry, paleontology, oceanography, etc.).
Exploration is an important part of history, and it’s something that’s been happening for hundreds and thousands of years. There are many different fields in which exploration can take place, from aerospace and geography, to biological research, technology, and oceanography.
Every part of the world that we now know has at some point been explored. For your merit badge requirement, you’ll need to focus on one specific field and what its history of exploration looked like. This will help you to better understand where the concept of exploration began!
As an example, I’ll be telling you a little bit more about space exploration! Space expeditions are all about discovering new celestial bodies, including planets, stars, asteroids, moons, comets, and more. There are always new technologies emerging such as robotic probes and better spacecrafts to explore more and more of our universe!
Space exploration began in the early 20th century when theoretical foundations for space travel were developed. The space race then started in the 1950s, with the Soviet Union launching Sputnik One, the world’s first artificial satellite. Then, in 1969, the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong on the moon!
With our entry into the final frontier — space — new technologies were developed and a passion for humans to spread into the stars was born. From that excitement came the space shuttle era, which lasted from 1981 to 2011. Now, we find ourselves in the age of modern space exploration, which started in the early 2000s and continues to this very day.
Most recently, the Perseverance Rover from NASA has landed on Mars and continues to carry out expeditions and experiments. 🙂 For some info on the fascinating discoveries of the Perseverance Rover, check out this great video (6:58):
3) Importance of Exploration. Explain to your counselor why it is important to explore. Discuss the following:
3a) Why it is important for exploration to have a scientific basis.
As a Scout, everything you do should have a clear purpose, and that includes exploration! So, if exploration didn’t have a scientific basis, it would contribute far less to our current knowledge. Instead, through its scientific basis of documentation and data collection, exploration builds upon our understanding of the universe!
Here’s an example you might relate to: If your troop wanted to explore a certain part of the forest, but were just walking around and didn’t make an effort to record landmarks, take pictures, or discuss your findings, how much information would you gain? Not much, probably…
However, if you had a goal in mind, designated Scouts to survey different areas, and then compiled your findings to make a map, you’d discover a whole lot more through your exploration efforts! By setting goals and making a plan to discover things scientifically, you’ll be sure to learn a whole lot more.
Exploring also means that you are looking for certain pieces of evidence, knowledge, or facts. Having this information, determined through a scientific basis, allows for better problem-solving, environmental awareness, and learnings later on! However, without taking findings, you aren’t learning or exploring. 🙁
3b) How explorers have aided in our understanding of our world
As someone who plans to do some exploring, you should know how explorers who came before you contributed to our understanding of the world. By knowing what others before you have contributed, you can get a good idea of the sorts of information you can contribute to future generations!
For instance, it is common knowledge that Christopher Columbus discovered the Western world. (Although technically speaking, evidence now shows that Vikings came here long before Christopher Columbus ever did.) Either way, Christopher Columbus was the explorer who brought the knowledge of North America back to Europe!
Here are a few more explorers and the ways in which they’ve aided our understanding of our world:
- Christopher Columbus: Discovered the Americas for Europe, paving the way for widespread exploration and colonization.
- Sacagawea: Assisted the Lewis and Clark expedition, playing a crucial role in navigating and getting help from Native American tribes.
- Neil Armstrong: Became the first human to walk on the Moon, marking a turning point in space exploration.
- James Cook: Mapped the Pacific, discovering and charting many islands and coastlines previously unknown to Europeans.
- Jane Goodall: Revolutionized our understanding of primates through her long-term study of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania.
- Elon Musk: While not an explorer in the traditional sense, his companies SpaceX and Tesla are pioneering new frontiers in space exploration and sustainable energy.
- Albert Einstein: A genius physicist who developed the theory of relativity, changing our understanding of time, space, and the universe.
These explorers have provided us with findings, technology, and inspiration to continue furthering humankind. Because of them, we have a better understanding of the world and universe we exist in. Virtually everything we know today is thanks to the discoveries of scientists and explorers! 😀
3c) What you think it takes to be an explorer
Part of being a Scout is using your own knowledge and deductive reasoning skills to come to conclusions. So, you know that exploring different areas of the world requires different approaches. Therefore, an explorer requires basic reasoning skills to determine what precautions need to be taken when exploring a new area.
As an explorer, you’re exploring a new place that has never been seen before — at least not by you. This means that there will be unpredictable issues and obstacles that may occur. So, one of the things you’ll also need as an explorer is a bit of courage and tenacity!
What are some other things do you think explorers need? The scientific method? A team? The latest tools and technologies? I challenge you to explore this question for yourself! If you were an explorer, both in the past and in the modern day, what would you need, both inside and outside? Write down a few ideas and then discuss them with your counseler!
4) Real-Life Exploration. Do ONE of the following:
4a) Learn about a living explorer. Create a short report or presentation (verbal, written, or multimedia slide presentation) on this individual’s objectives and the achievements of one of the explorer’s expeditions. Share what you have learned with your counselor and unit.
4b) Learn about an actual scientific exploration expedition. Gather information about the mission objectives and the expedition’s most interesting or important discoveries. Share what you have learned with your counselor and unit. Tell how the information gained from this expedition helped scientists answer important questions.
4c) Learn about types of exploration that may take place in a laboratory or scientific research facility (medicine, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc.). Explain to your counselor how laboratory research and exploration are similar to field research and exploration.
In this guide, I’ll be covering requirement 4a and telling you more about a living explorer, but I’d highly encourage you to work on whatever option interests you most! By learning about a living explorer, you’ll realize that exploration is alive and well in this modern day and age. 🙂
The point here is simply for you to create a short presentation, which can be a multimedia, written, or a simple verbal presentation. I’d recommend presenting verbally to increase your Communication skills! Now, all you have to do is pick an explorer and learn about some of their achievements.
As an example, below I’ll be telling you about Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a living explorer of today!
Living Explorer: Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Sir Ranulph Fiennes is often described as the most famous and accomplished explorer still alive today! He was born in 1944 and started his exploration journey in 1967. It has been ongoing ever since! The following are some of the greatest exploration accomplishments.
- 1967 Climbed the Jostedalsbreen Glacier.
- 1969 White Nile Hovercraft Expedition.
- 1971 Headless Valley Expedition.
- 1976-1978 Hayes Peninsula Expedition.
- 1979-1982 Undertook the Transglobe Expedition to travel the world via its polar axis.
- 1981 Completed the Northwest Passage as part of the Transglobe expedition.
- 1986-1990 Unsupported North Pole Expedition (Canada) with Mike Stroud.
- 1990 Unsupported North Pole Expedition (Russia) with Mike Stroud.
- 1990-1991 Reconnaissance and Expedition to discover the lost city of Ubar (aka Iram)
- 1993 Unsupported Antarctic Expedition with Mike Stroud.
- 1996 Solo walk to the South Pole (failed because of a kidney stone).
- 2000 Solo walk to the North Pole (failed because of a sled accident and frostbite).
- 2003 Ran seven marathons in seven days for the British Heart Foundation.
- 2009 Became the oldest Briton to successfully climb Mount Everest.
What a cool and accomplished exploration track record! For more info, be sure to check out Sir Ranulph Fiennes Explorers Journal page. To complete this requirement, you should expand on some of these points slightly and you can even consider pulling up pictures to go along with your information.
5) Exploration in Lab and Field. Do ONE of the following, and share what you learn with your counselor:
5a) With your parent’s permission and counselor’s approval, visit either in person or via the internet an exploration sponsoring organization (such as The Explorers Club, National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution, Alpine Club, World Wildlife Fund, or similar organization). Find out what type(s) of exploration the organization supports.
5b) With permission and approval, visit either in person or via the internet a science lab, astronomical observatory, medical research facility, or similar site. Learn what exploration is done in this facility.
As a Scout, you don’t need to go exploring alone. Exploring alone can be dangerous because there are always certain risks and unknown factors that can surprise you. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to enlist the help of a specific organization designed to help people explore.
Having trained professionals assist you in your exploration journeys can mean the difference between success and failure. That’s why it’s important to know what types of exploration sponsoring organizations are out there, as this will help you determine what kind of exploration you can be supported in doing!
There are plenty of exploration-sponsoring organizations out there, with the Alpine Club being one of them. Some organizations may just provide you with basic guidelines and limited support, whereas others might provide you with guides and sherpas for assisted exploration. As an example, let’s quickly take a look at the Alpine Club.
The Alpine Club
The Alpine Club is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious mountaineering exploration clubs. It was first founded in England in 1857, with the primary mission of promoting mountaineering and exploration in mountainous regions.
Throughout history, the club has played a significant role in the tradition of mountaineering. The number one goal of this club is to explore mountains. However, this club also focuses on cultural and ethnographic exploration.
On that note, the Alpine Club is very dedicated to conservation and environmental stewardship. The club consists of a network of experienced mountaineers, scientists, explorers, and adventurers who collaborate and share their knowledge and experiences. For more info, check out their website! 🙂
6) Expedition Planning. Discuss with your counselor each of the following steps for conducting a successful exploration activity. Explain the need for each step.
Exploration isn’t just something you wake up one morning and decide to do. To be a true explorer, you’ll need to put in a great deal of thought and planning around your expedition in order to achieve success. Otherwise, you may run into obstacles that you don’t know how to deal with. Being prepared to explore is half the battle.
So, before you dive into this requirement, I’d highly recommend watching the following video (19:43) to get into the mindset of an explorer. In it, you’ll learn how true expeditions are planned, and some of the dangers explorers may face along the way. Then, we’ll move into answering these requirements ourselves!
For this merit badge, there are eight main steps in planning an expedition, and each one is just as important as the last. In this section, I’ll be going over each of them and giving you some examples of things you can discuss with your counselor. Below are the eight steps of exploration planning and what makes them so important! 😀
6a) Identify the objectives (establish goals).
Before embarking on any expedition, you’ll first need to establish your objective and goals. What are you looking to accomplish? What is the aim of your exploration? Are you looking to discover new cultures, animals, plants, or parts of the world? You need to set clear goals because, without clear goals, it’s difficult to accomplish anything.
The whole point of any exploration journey is to accomplish a certain goal, which usually involves learning some kind of new scientific fact or proving/disproving a hypothesis. Your exploration journey will be more difficult and less successful if you aren’t prepared with a smart goal, beforehand!
6b) Plan the mission. Create an expedition agenda or schedule. List potential documents or permits needed.
You’ll then want to create a step-by-step plan of what your exploration mission will look like. First, create an agenda that specifically lists all of your goals and objectives. Afterward, create a schedule according to those goals and objectives. In other words, when will each of your expedition goals be achieved?
Do some research into exactly what it will take to achieve a specific goal. Then, do your best to determine how long it will take. Things like local unrest, cultural issues and differences, geography, climate, and more may all make a difference here.
Extensive research into exactly where you are going and all of the dangers that might be involved is required. You’ll need to be aware of all of the possible factors that might affect your exploration journey, as well as what you will do to counteract these effects.
Depending on where in the world you are going, you may also need travel visas, insurance, vaccinations, and other documents to gain entry. The point here is to try to account for all of the possible variables that may occur at each point in your trip, and what you’ll do to handle those variables.
Ready to move on to requirement 6c) of the Exploration mb? Click here!
Congrats on Finishing Part 1 of The Exploration Merit Badge!
Great work, Scout! We’re now halfway done with earning the Exploration merit badge!! We just covered a ton of useful info so that you’ll better be able to plan adventures of discovery. Incredible job making it this far, give yourself a huge pat on the back! 🙂
Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you complete your merit badge worksheets.