Merit Badge Archives - Eva Varga

November 12, 2016

My son has a growing interest in computers and programming. It was thereby no surprise when he recently shared that he wanted to hear the Boy Scout Programming Merit Badge, which debuted in 2013. We thereby reached out to the computer science teacher at the local high school and inquired if she would be willing to serve as his merit badge counselor.

There are several activities required of the scout to earn the Programming Merit Badge. Requirement number 5 requires scouts to choose three different programming languages and development environments. Then, write, debug, and demonstrate a functioning program in each to their counselor.

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Programming with Creation Crate

The first project Jeffrey chose to undertake was coding in C++ with Creation Crate, a monthly subscription kit a monthly subscription box to help you learn about electronics.

Creation Crate is hosting a giveaway for a 1 year subscription to Creation Crate this month. The contest will run until the end of November 24. Enter to win!

The Creation Crate kit includes both the hardware of electronics and the programming aspect. Each monthly delivery comes in a sturdy box with all of the components wrapped carefully in bubble wrap. Because of the programming required, you will also need a computer or laptop to download and use the Arduino software. The intended age range is accurate, I would say, especially if kids have electronics-building experience (or a parent nearby). The projects start relatively simple and get harder as you go through the boxes.


When the Creation Crate kit arrived, Geneva was also very intrigued. They thereby agreed to collaborate, dividing the work between themselves. Geneva carefully assembled the hardware, whereby Jeffrey focused on the coding. This was his first time programming any sort of electronics with actual software code, as opposed to just circuits, so it was both challenging and fun.

It wasn’t always easy, however. When Jeffrey ran into trouble with the code, it took several adults to overlook everything before we caught the errors in the code. He enjoyed the process so much he is interested in trying additional Arduino projects on his own.


This was a fantastic box and perfect for anyone who wants to tinker with Arduino projects but isn’t sure where to start. This box isn’t just for kids – it’s suitable for anyone age 12+ who wants to learn or enhance their electronics and coding skills.

With a longer term subscription the price lowers and shipping is free worldwide. EVERY BOX comes with an Uno R3, which is a $25 board. EVERY BOX. This is great as it means that you will not have to disassemble the projects you’ve previously completed.

Don’t forget, Creation Crate is hosting a giveaway for a 1 year subscription to Creation Crate this month. The contest will run until the end of November 24. Enter to win!


May 25, 2016

My son recently joined Scouts and we’ve thus been immersed in learning about the history and opportunities provided to members. Everyone is likely familiar with the merit badge system whereby Scouts can learn about sports, handcrafts, science, trades, business, and future careers. Did you realize there are more than 100 merit badges?

Stamp Collecting Merit Badge

The merit badge system, I discovered was a huge motivating factor for my son. It is not surprising that the first two merit badges he chose to earn were swimming and music. He breezed through the requirements for each and was soon ready to tackle another.

stampcollectingmeritbadgesThis time he chose stamp collecting – one of the rarest badges earned. I thereby volunteered to serve as the merit badge counselor and thereby guide the interested scouts through badge requirements. Not surprisingly, only two others joined us.

Delightfully, the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs has a Boy Scout stamp collecting merit badge PowerPoint presentation available on its website. It follows, in order, the requirements from the merit badge book and thus introduces new philatelists to the hobby with ease.

I had enough stamps from which each of the boys were able to sort through and find everything they needed to complete the merit badge requirements. They just need to put their projects together. 🙂

Stamp Collecting & Exhibiting

My children and I have been avid stamp collectors for years and we have learned so much along the way. We got started in earnest shortly after we had moved to Redding, California and learned of a collector who wanted to pass on his collection of world stamps to a young child interested in learning about stamp collecting.

We reached out to him and spent an afternoon learning the ins and outs of philately. We discovered that philatelists collect a wide variety of different material – while many collect stamps from a single country, others collect stamps on a variety of topics, and others focus solely on cancellation marks. It really is very diverse!

stamp collectingStamp Collecting Championships

We soon discovered that thematic collecting was our preferred approach. Over the past five years, the kids and I have put together numerous exhibits to showcase stamps and philatelic material expressing our individual interests.

They have entered their exhibits in local shows in both California (NOVAPEX) and Oregon (SOPEX) as well as regional and national shows around the country. In doing so, they have met many wonderful people (dealers, other exhibitors, and judges).

Jeffrey’s Exhibits

  • Aeronautics
  • How the Engine Changed the World
  • Bridges of the World
  • Maersk Group*

Geneva’s Exhibits

  • Birds of the World*
  • Lunar New Year*
  • Mythologies of the World
  • Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter*

My Exhibits

  • All About Me
  • Mythology of the Moon
  • Phylum Insecta
*Denotes exhibits that have won a youth grand award at a nationally accredited show and thereby qualified for the AAPE Youth Champion of Champions competition. Maersk Group and Folkloric Mysteries of Harry Potter will be competing head to head in August along with numerous other youth exhibitors.

The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas by iHomeschool NetworkInterested in learning how to integrate stamps into your curriculum? My article, How to Use Postage Stamps for Learning, was published in the Big Book of Homeschool Ideas.

55 homeschool moms contributed to The Big Book of Homeschool Ideas. Providing you with inspiration and ideas that go beyond the basics of academics. Delve into delightful methods like active learning, learning with video games, using LEGO bricks for learning, teaching on the road, learning with movies, and gardening.

The eBook is available now for only $5.99.


March 28, 2016

With the current circus that is our current election season, the kids have had many questions about the elections process. There were only 7 and 9 years old during the last presidential election, so it is no wonder that they’ve taken a greater interest now.

A short time ago, an article in the Wall Street Journal showed a picture of people lined up at a polling station somewhere in America. “What are they doing?” my son asked. “Voting,” I casually responded. I further explained that in Oregon, we have a mail-in ballot system. We thereby don’t have to wait in line. We cast our vote by mailing our ballots to the county clerk. He didn’t inquire any further so I didn’t think anything of it until a few days later.


Jeffrey recently joined Boy Scouts and one of the first merit badges he began to work on was Citizenship in the Community. One of the required tasks reads:

Choose an issue that is important to the citizens of your community. Find out which branch of local government is responsible for this issue and interview one person from this branch of government. Ask what is being done about this issue and how young people can help.

“People are interested in the elections. I’d like to know more about that,” he said. “Can I interview the county clerk?” 

Later that week, a homeschool friend posted a picture of kiddos visiting the county clerk’s office in Deschutes County. Serendipity! I picked up the phone and made arrangements for a visit to our own.

A Visit with Our County Clerk

In our county, the clerk’s job is twofold – elections and records. She is responsible for filing vital records or important documents related to the county’s population, including birth, death and marriage certificates. Services provided are:

  • Land Records
  • Public Records
  • Marriage Licenses
  • Dog Licenses
  • County Filings
  • Board of Property Tax Appeal

2016 electionsThe county clerk is also responsible for coordinating all voting processes in the county. Services provided are:

  • Voter Registration 
  • Candidate/Measure filing 
  • Election Management 
  • Ballot Processing 
  • Redistricting

During our visit the clerk led the kids through the entire process. They were given mock voter registration cards to see how our signatures are entered into the computer system. Thereafter, we were mailed mock ballots with which we voted for fictional positions and two mock county measures. The clerk and her assistant than walked us through the process by which our signatures are verified and our votes tallied.

I was very impressed with the thought and preparation our clerk showed for our visit. It is clear that she takes her job very seriously and enjoys her work. She has held this elected position since 1999 – no one has ran against her since her first term.

When asked what young people can do to help she responded, “Be informed. Learn now how to research the issues for this will be a skill you will always need. Be knowledgeable on the issues that will affect your communities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to always seek out information.”

We look forward to going back as her team processes the real ballots during the primaries in May.