What Is the Boy Scouts’ Contribution to Environmental Science?

Boy Scouts of America has made several contributions to environmental science, including hosting service projects to help keep local areas clean and offering the Hometown USA Award. There are also several individuals who made environmental science a career after a time with the organization. William Hornaday, Ernest Thompson Seton and Daniel Carter Beard contributed to environmental science and Scouting in various ways.

Hornaday spent time as the chief taxidermist of the Smithsonian Institution and helped establish the National Zoological Garden in Washington in the late 1800s before becoming the head of the Bronx Zoo in New York. Hornaday was enshrined in the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Hall of Fame in 1971. He helped create the Environmental Science merit badge and wrote several articles for “Boys’ Life” in the 1920s.

The Environmental Science merit badge is one of the requirements to earn the Eagle rank, Scouting’s top rank for boys under the age of 18. One of the merit badge’s requirements involves creating an environmental impact statement for an imaginary project. An optional portion of the merit badge revolves around studying two projects designed to improve the habitat for threatened species of plants or animals.

In 2013 three of the most common types of service projects involved litter cleanup, community beautification and conservation efforts. The Hometown USA Award is a joint project between the Boy Scouts of America and Keep America Beautiful that rewards Boy Scouts for outstanding service to environmental improvements in Scouting communities.