Scout Badge Activities: 10 Fun Ways To Earn Badges around Los Angeles

Photo by Ronnie Schelby courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Photo by Ronnie Schelby courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Time to buy some Badge Magic, because your scout's vest is about to get a whole lot more crowded. Whether you're a troop leader guiding the pack, or just a parent in charge of the next activity, these adventures (many of which are free or cheap) are great choices for inspiring a troop of boy or girl scouts. Don't mistake these for merely "fun patch" activities; these badges earned at locations throughout Los Angeles may even spark ideas for a future Gold Award or Eagle Scout project. And in the process, you may get to check another item off our LA Kids Bucket List.

1) Annenberg PetSpace

Sure, maybe you already have a lot of pet badges; after all, the kid/animal connection is hard-wired. But Wallis Annenberg PetSpace is like no other. Although it is a pet adoption center, scouts can also earn a pet badge or an animal helpers badge. Play Pet Bingo, get to work crafting a cat mat, or learn from the Animal Care Specialists about animal behavior. This is an awesome weekend activity, or book a slot right after school (the facility closes at 5pm). Although PetSpace is free for individuals, there is a nominal fee for groups doing tours and badge projects.

2) LA Zoo

The Zoo World Patch is a four-hour class which not only teaches scouts about zoo administration and management, but it also teaches about the zoo's animal residents. The program provides hands-on activities and also takes scouts out on the zoo grounds for more experiential learning. The cost is currently $18 per scout; accompanying adults pay $24.

3) LA Metro

Did you know scouts can make their own badge once a year? Try this one out for a "Navigation" badge: Scouts navigate from a Metro stop to a free museum downtown (or anywhere you choose) on their own. Okay, parents are on this trip, but kids have to do the navigating. Scouts meet at a local Metro train stop. Give each Scout $2 for a TAP card and $1.75 ($1 if they have their own student card). Scouts must figure out how to buy a TAP card and put money on the card for train fare. Next, scouts must figure out which train track will take them to their destination. Then, they board the train. At the destination, divide them into two groups. One group has a digital map and the other group has a paper map (no phones). Whoever gets to the destination first, wins. The destination can be anywhere... the Science Museum and FIDM Museum are free, for example. For a bit of extra fun, after the museum, have them navigate to a secret location... like maybe to get a charcoal ice cream cone at Little Damage

4) Guide Dogs of America 

Guide Dogs of America has its own patch program. Head out to Sylmar for a free guided tour of the facilities, and see how these specially trained dogs help people who are blind or visually impaired live more active lives. To make this badge more meaningful, a troop could have a towel, blanket, and dog toy drive and then bring the donations along. Can't get to the facility? A Guide Dogs of America representative can be scheduled to speak at troop events, too. 

5) Federal Reserve

Money, money, money! Tour our nation's central bank in downtown Los Angeles. (This activity is for older kids, since the bank will only allow kids high school age or older on a tour.) In addition to learning how money is made, distributed, and even destroyed, kids also get a glimpse of the money vaults—and even go home with a small sample of shredded money. Don't forget to follow the "Personal Finance" lesson plan, in which scouts can make a budget and learn about the correlation between education and financial success. 

6) Food Bank

Kids can feed someone who is hungry in their community and earn the Feed Your Neighbor Month Service Badge. In a three-step program, scouts DISCOVER and learn about world and local hunger, CONNECT by making placemats for a local shelter or making a trip to a local supermarket to learn about nutrition and food costs, and TAKE ACTION by initiating a food drive for a local food pantry, such as Food Pantry LAX or World Harvest LA.

7) Catalina (Camp Emerald Bay)

This badge takes up a LOT of space and comes in multiple parts, so have your Badge Magic at the ready. A boat ride from San Pedro brings a troop to Camp Emerald Bay, which is on the undeveloped west end of Catalina Island. While there, scouts earn badges in aquatics, field sports, marine science, and scuba, to name a few. In addition to merit badges, scouts can also snorkel, mountain bike, kayak, Frisbee, and enjoy beach cooking. The camp is a scout facility and has some scholarships available.

8) Natural History Museum Sleepover

Ever wanted to sleep under a massive dinosaur or a stuffed bison? Now's your chance; kids LOVE this overnight. Friday night sleepovers include access to the museum after hours, movies, crafts, and special performances. This could be a fun patch or add more paleontology research and activities to turn this into a merit badge. The sleepover runs periodic Fridays from 6:30pm to 9:30am Saturday.

9) Hiking and Camping

Hiking and camping are synonymous with scouts! The trail to these badges is full of many kinds of merit opportunities. Learn all about survival skills, packing backpacks, tent camping, making fires, outdoor cooking, and more. There are oodles of campgrounds in California, of course; here are 15 of our favorite local camping spots. Be sure and bring along the scouts' "8 Essentials" and plenty of water.

10) Disneyland Educational Programs

Most kids think Disneyland is all (and only) about Cinderella, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Space Mountain, but scouts can earn a badge in one of the park's many youth programs. Learn the Disney company's leadership strategies, go behind the scenes at the restaurants where chefs inspire kids with culinary arts, or sign up for "Disney Story" where kids are taught how full-length animated features are made. Girl Scouts may have to dip into their troop cookie money, as this one is a bit more pricey than some, but it's cheaper than an ordinary Disney ticket—and well worth it to earn a badge at the happiest place on earth! 

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Year of the Rabbit Storytime
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Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides