Boy Scouts of America Introduces Merit Badge: Signs, Signals, and Codes

New merit badge encourages youth members to explore alternative languages, including the increased use of shorthand texts or emoticons

Signs-Signals-and-Codes-merit-badge-coverIrving, Texas (Feb. 26, 2015) Emoticons, braille, and Morse code are among the various forms of language featured in the Boy Scouts of America’s newest merit badge, Signs, Signals, and Codes. This week, the BSA launched the 135th addition to the merit badge program. Whether Scouts are hiking a trail, signaling for help in an emergency, or texting their friends, some form of communication is involved. With the increasing popularity and use of technology and “emojis” to share emotions or gestures, it’s important that Scouts, adult volunteer leaders, and parents are able to understand and interpret these nonverbal signs.

The BSA continues to evolve its programs to reflect the interests and skills of today’s youth members. This merit badge introduces Scouts to several forms of nonverbal communication, including emergency signaling, Morse code, American Sign Language, braille, trail signs, sports officiating hand signals, traffic signs, and secret codes.

“As the largest youth-serving organization, the Boy Scouts of America strives to create new programs and opportunities for youth members that speak to their evolving interests,” said Steve Bowen, chair of the Merit Badge Development Committee. “By pursuing this merit badge, Scouts will learn to translate other forms of nonverbal communications, such as emojis, which is a productive skill they can use both in and out of Scouting.”

To earn this merit badge, youth members will be required to demonstrate their practical knowledge of these skills by completing the following requirements:

  • Spell your name! Communicate with another person by spelling your first name using Morse code, American Sign Language, and semaphore.
  • Use a hands-on approach. Identify the letters of the braille alphabet that spell your name, by either sight or touch. Additionally, decode a six- to 10-word braille message and create a braille message to share with your counselor.
  • Test your friends. On a Scouting outing, lay out a trail for your patrol or troop to follow, using only the trail signs and markers you provide.
  • Test your parents! Give examples of your favorite text symbols or emoticons and ask your counselor or parent to identify the meaning or usage of each symbol.

“By introducing youth members to a variety of nonverbal techniques, we’re giving them the tools they need to develop into effective communicators,” said Tim Malaney, who served as the lead volunteer for the merit badge committee. “We hope the merit badge program continues to grow alongside advancements in technology and learning so we can continue to provide value to our youth members.”

For more information on the Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge, visit Resources for individuals who are interested in serving as a merit badge counselor are available here: BoyScouts/GuideforMeritBadgeCounselors/Resources.

About the Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America provides the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training, which helps young people be “Prepared. For Life.®” The Scouting organization is composed of nearly 2.4 million youth members between the ages of 7 and 21 and approximately 960,000 volunteers in local councils throughout the United States and its territories. For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, please visit