Earning Adult Merit Badges
They're not just for scouts anymore
I’m just 1 person who has always loved merit badges. Physical representations of things I’ve learned and accomplished are something I find so satisfying. Earning merit badges with my troop or on my own was definitely my favorite thing about being a scout when I was young. I loved flipping through the pages to find something fun and interesting to learn about and do next. I made my own merit badge books for my 101 Things in 1001 Days lists, self-publishing them so I could fill them out over the course of the challenge.
However, over the years I’ve come across or been gifted other books (and things) that are sort of similar to the merit badge books I loved in my youth. Here are a few that I’ve tried out so far:
You Can Do It! The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-up Girls
This is a collection of merit badges for adults on a number of themes: dare, create, learn, play, deal, connect, and dream. There are 60 badges in total that you can work through starting from a basic level and progressing to expert. Some of these badges include acting, painting, cooking, yoga, healthcare, car care, speaking a foreign language, budgeting, genealogy, volunteering, dating, skydiving, and wine appreciation.
Each badge has its own picture and an explanation of what you might get out of completing it. There’s a one-page write-up of a mentor who excels in that subject, so you can learn from her insights, experience, and enthusiasm. Then there are a series of steps you can take to complete the badge followed by a satisfying completion space where you can write in the day’s date. In addition, there are quotes, tips for advancing “beyond the badge” and a whole page of references if you want to learn more. It’s a comprehensive look at a subject that is geared both toward learning and support. Best of all, the back pages of the book have matching badge stickers.
My copy of this book is full of post-its and paperclips that are color-coded based on difficulty and completion. I love the format of the book (and the stickers!) because it allows you to go as deep as you want when trying out a new topic. And for those topics with which you are already familiar, you can go even deeper or just have the satisfaction of easily completing them.
The idea behind this book came from Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas who, like me, loved earning merit badges in scouts. She worked on the book for a year before she died on September 11, aboard United Flight 93. Her sisters Vaughn and Dara saw the book to completion to realize Lauren’s “dream of empowering women to ‘go out and do it!'”
I can’t recommend this book highly enough and have given copies to friends over the years.
Geek Merit Badges: Essential Skills for Nerdy Excellence
This book by Meghan Murphy is a pleasure to work through for anyone (like me) who is a nerd, geek, and/or fan. The categories of badges are vague: discovery, absorption, transmission, and creation. But the 40 badges themselves are amazing. Some include: Awkwardness Adept Badge, Constant Collector Badge, Awesomemess Ambassador Badge, and the Fan Fiction Finesse Badge. The book’s bright, full-color pages are filled with fannish imagery, but the real beauty of the book is the way fannish enthusiasm is used to help you better yourself. Explore your fandoms for a wisdom, find your inner voice, find constructive ways to deal with anger, develop cooking skills by recreating fictional foods. There are small fillable exercises you can do within the workbook, and there is also a page of colored, matching badge stickers in the back.
I admit to not having spent enough time working through this book yet, as it was a recent-ish gift from a friend. But the badges I have worked on were fun and not too time consuming. I love that the author speaks my language and understands my obsessions. Written from one fan to others, this books melds passions and skills together in fun ways.
This is a set of cards, not a merit badge book, but it’s also good for a fun challenge. Each card gives you a mission. Once you complete that mission, you leave the card behind or hand the card off to a person directly. Some examples of cards include: start the wave in a food court or cafeteria, try a new food, create a new word or phrase, give this card to someone who shares your middle name, give this card to somebody without them knowing, and return a lost item to its owner.
Each card has a unique number, so if someone else finds your card, they can check in online and allow you to watch it travel the world. None of mine have ever been found and logged, but I’ve only completed about a dozen.
These little missions are sometimes fun and sometimes sweet. As an introvert, they make me a little nervous, but having an excuse to challenge myself a little bit more can be a good thing.