Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge
Activity Guide for Patrol Leaders
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    Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge

    Aids for the Boy-Led Scout Troop

    Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge is a unique learning experience about our life here on Planet Earth.

    Sample Activity Plan

    A core element of this program is an Soil and Water Conservation themed field trip (several exciting options available).


    A) Make Your Plan
    The Trail to Adventure Fun!

      1. Merit Badge Activity Preview

      2. Sample Plan Outline
      Note: This Plan is a Draft - Some dates, events and activities may change after reviewing it with your leaders.

      • Make draft of Event Flyer (See Example Here).
      • Each Participant to be notified that he needs:
      • Event Dates / Places / Dress Code / Supplies / Etc.
      • Pre-requisites (ie worksheet, blue card, research materials)
      • Homework Requirements
      • Service Project Opportunities? (See Extra Credit)
      • Outdoor & Camping Opportunities? (See Extra Credit)
      • Other Related Scouting Activities? (See Extra Credit)
      • Hydrological Cycle Experiment - gather needed supplies for experiment in Req #5.

      3. Meet the Merit Badge Counselor
      Review your plan with the merit badge counselor. Some activities require his advance approval. The Scoutmaster should be able to recommend a counselor to you.

      4. Patrol Leader Council
      Present Activity Proposal to your fellow patrol leaders and scoutmaster. Make assignments as needed.

      5. Field Trip Plan

      • Contact the destination venue. Confirm that they can assist with the Field Trip Requirements. Reserve your Event Dates.
      • Troop Historian should be ready to take pictures on this activity to report back on the next troop blog, newsletter or court of honor.

      6. Announce & Start Activity

      • Get final approval from your scoutmaster.
      • Update event flyer (#2) above.
      • Distribute event flyer / Begin Introduction


    B) Introduction
    Present the plan to your patrol or troop (Either at your first activity meeting or sometime earlier.)

    Here are some ideas to show why this activity will be both fun and important.

    Conservation ... is the duty of every person to learn more about the natural resources on which our lives depend so that we can help make sure that these resources are used intelligently and cared for properly.
    Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge
    Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge

    Audio-Video Presentation:
    Lack of water is the biggest threat to the lives of people living in dryland Africa. In addition, soil erosion further threatens their ability to grow enough food to eat. In this short film, we expalin how communities work together to conserve soil and water to create true self-help development.


    Soil and Water ConservationMerit Badge C) Scout Homework
    Work to be done prior to program start:

      Preparation
      Print Merit Badge Workbook - One for each scout.

      Req #2: Soil Erosion Pictures
      Take 2-3 pictures of soil erosion in your neighborhood (maybe a hillside or near a river).

      Req #3: Erosion Control Pictures
      Take 2-3 pictures of soil erosion in your neighborhood (maybe a construction site).


    Soil and Water ConservationMerit Badge D) Study Hall

    Purpose: Help each Patrol Member learn key concepts on this subject. Include the following resources:

      Study Hall Preparation -

      Req #1: What is Soil? -


        a. Tell what soil is. Tell how it is formed.
        b. Describe three kinds of soil. Tell how they are different.
        c. Name the three main plant nutrients in fertile soil. Tell how they can be put back when used up

        What is Soil - Show the Presentation from Discovery Education shows the basics of "dirt".
        Oral Quiz for Scouts: a) What is Soil? b) List three kinds of soil did they see? and c) List three plant nutrients?

      Req #2: Define Soil Erosion


        a. Define Soil Erosion
        b. Tell why soil conservation is important. Tell how it affects you.
        c. Name three kinds of soil erosion. Describe each.
        d. Take pictures of or draw two kinds of soil erosion.

        Soil Erosion - (2a,2b,2c) website presentation on the three main forms of soil erosion.

      Erosion Control

      Req #3: Erosion Control


        a. Tell what is meant by "conservation practices".
        b. Describe the effect of three kinds of erosion-control practices.
        c. Take pictures of or draw three kinds of erosion-control practices.

        Erosion Control Practices - (3a, 3b) The National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory at Purdue University presents five common methods for soil erosion control.

      Req #4: The Watershed -


        a. Explain what a watershed is.
        b. Outline the smallest watershed that you can find on a contour map.
        c. Outline, as far as the map will allow, the next larger watershed which also has the smaller one in it.
        d. Explain what a river basin is. Tell why all people living in a river basin should be concerned about land and water use in the basin.
        e. Explain what an aquifer is and why it can be important to communities.

        The Watershed Atlas: A watershed carries water "shed" from the land after rain falls and snow melts. Drop by drop, water is channeled into soils, groundwaters, creeks, and streams, making its way to larger rivers and eventually the sea.
        Little Yosemite Valley Contour Map - Demo map for marking small and large watershed areas.

      Hydrological Cycle
      Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey

      Req #5: The Hydrological Cycle

      The chart above and the experiment below can be run easily to demonstrate the Hydrological Cycle.


        a. Make a drawing to show the hydrologic cycle.
        b. Demonstrate at least two of the following actions of water in relation to the soil: percolation, capillary action, precipitation, evaporation, transpiration.
        c. Explain how removal of vegetation will affect the way water runs off a watershed.
        d. Tell how uses of forest, range, and farmland affect usable water supply.
        e. Explain how industrial use affects water supply.

        Hydrological Cycle Experiment

      Req #6: Water Pollution


        a. Tell what is meant by water pollution.
        b. Describe common sources of water pollution and explain the effects of each.
        c. Tell what is meant by "primary water treatment," "secondary waste treatment," and "biochemical oxygen demand."
        d. Make a drawing showing the principles of complete waste treatment.

        Water Pollution: Lentech - Oral Quiz - Water Pollution: a) What is it? b) What are some common sources?
        Waste Water Treatment - Oral Quiz - c) Describe primary and secondary steps in wastewater treatment and d) Treatment Design Plan -

      Waste Water Treatment Cycle
      Courtesy Karen Mancl - Ohio State University


    E) Patrol Field Trip

      Erosion Control Req #7: Conservation Field Tour:


        In close consultation with your merit badge counselor, Do TWO of the following activities. You might plan this as part of a campout or day trip.

          a. Make a trip to two of the following places. Write a report of more than 500 words about the soil and water and energy conservation practices you saw.
          1. An agricultural experiment.
          2. A managed forest or a woodlot, range, or pasture.
          3. A wildlife refuge or a fish or game management area.
          4. A conservation-managed farm or ranch.
          5. A managed watershed.
          6. A waste-treatment plant.
          7. A public drinking water treatment plant.
          8. An industry water-use installation.
          9. A desalinization plant.

          b. Plant 100 trees, bushes and/or vines for a good purpose.
          c. Seed an area of at least one-fifth acre for some worthwhile conservation purposes, using suitable grasses or legumes alone or in a mixture.
          d. Study a soil survey report. Describe the things in it. Using tracing paper and pen, trace over any of the soil maps, and outline an area with three or more different kinds of soil. List each kind of soil by full name and map symbol.
          e. Make a list of places in your neighborhood, camps, school ground, or park having erosion, sedimentation, or pollution problems. Describe how these could be corrected through individual or group action.
          f. Carry out any other soil and water conservation project approved by your merit badge counselor.


      Soil and Water Conservation Merit Badge F) Program Debriefing

      After completion of the above activities you may need a work session to finish completion of the merit badge worksheet to document the results of your visits, activities and the people you interviewed for Requirement #7.


      G) Extra Credit

        Soil and Water Conservation is one of the elective merit badges for the World Conservation Award for Boy Scouts, and one of the elective merit badges for the William T. Hornaday awards for Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts.

        Merit Badge BSA World Conservation Award

        Soil and Water Conservation is one of just three merit badges needed to earn this unique and prestigious scouting award.

        An important opportunity for individual Scouts to 'think globally' and 'act locally' to preserve and improve our environment.

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