Now there’s a new, third way to wear Eagle Scout palms

eaglepatchEagle Scout’s the highest rank in Scouting, but it’s not the end of the road.

An Eagle Scout who earns five merit badges beyond the minimum amount (and meets other requirements) will receive a Bronze Palm. He’ll get a Gold Palm for 10 extra merit badges and a Silver Palm for 15. He can wear multiple palms if he gets to 20, 25, 30, etc.

Until January, there were two places he could wear these palms: on the ribbon of the Eagle medal and on the Eagle square knot, which is only worn by adults.

Now there’s a third.

After the Awards and Insignia Committee’s approval in January 2014, Eagle Scouts may now wear palms directly on the Eagle Scout badge itself.

That means the three approved methods for wearing Eagle palms are:

  1. On the Eagle Scout square knot, which is worn by adult Scouters.
  2. Attached to the ribbon of the Eagle Scout medal, which is worn on special occasions by youth and adults.
  3. On the Eagle Scout rank emblem (patch), which is sewn on the youth field uniform.

As for where to attach the palms on the badge itself, the committee made no specific stipulations, so anywhere is fine.

Perhaps somewhere in the red, white and blue field behind the eagle would allow the palm or palms to be seen better.

Here’s a handy chart to help you remember the number of extra merit badges required for each Eagle palm:


Related post

Ask the Expert: Why does silver outrank gold in Scouting awards?

More about Eagle palms

Learn more about Eagle palms and how to wear them in this excellent summary by Mike Walton, aka Settummanque. Click to enlarge:


Thanks to BSA Member Experience Team Leader Peter Self for the info.

59 thoughts on “Now there’s a new, third way to wear Eagle Scout palms

  1. Might be fun to revisit why the silver is higher than the gold. Because of contests like the Olympics, we place gold as highest in most regards, but not in Scouting. Anyone care to explain? Thanks.

    • +1 to mikemenn’s suggestion… though I suspect it was done as a deliberate distinction from the way the military designates multiple awards

      • When I heard about these, I thought very cool! But I would think that the palms should go, Bronze, Silver, then Gold. I would think it would a good goal for everyone if the last palm would be gold. Like the Olympics.. But anyway, very cool!

    • It is based on military tradition. Even in our modern military a 2nd lieutenant has a single gold bar, while a first lieutenant has a single silver bar and captain has two silver bars.

      • A Major wears a Gold Oak Leaf while a Lieutenant Colonel wears a Silver Oak Leaf. Silver is always higher in the military.

        • not necessarily true, on some devices like the hourglass, the gold is higher. In most cases you are correct. Larry I. (retired CSM)

    • BSA has traditionally used “military color order” for their awards… the Eagle Palms go Bronze-Gold-Silver and the old Explorer and Venturing awards went Bronze-Gold-Silver too.

      However the Journey to Excellence (JTE) program uses the “Olympic color order” of Bronze-Silver-Gold. if you read the official JTE FAQs on they state: that it “was discussed by the task force, which decided that Journey to Excellence would be better understood by the majority of volunteers—especially new volunteers—if the program followed the bronze, silver, gold sequence.”

      • Yeah, what Marcus said.

        “Ask the Expert: Why does silver outrank gold in Scouting awards?” Here, let me fix that for you. “Ask the Expert: Why does silver outrank gold in some Scouting awards like Eagle Palms but not in other Scouting awards like the JTE patches?” There, fixed.

    • Early BSA uniform and insignia drew heavily on the US military example. In fact, when the uniform provisions of the Defense Act (governing use of military uniforms and copying them) were amended decades ago, BSA was specifcally granted an exception to permit similar uniforms. BSA has generally followed the military rule that silver designates higher achievement, then gold.

      Evidently someone who didn’t know anything about our uniform made the decision in the 1980s to use gold as the color for epaulet tabs for national positions and silver for council positions. Actually, someone who didn’t know anything about the outdoors evidently designed the uniform with useless epaulets. But that’s another story.

      As to following the Olympics or other sports, why would we want to? They have their traditions, and we have ours.

      • The 80’s uniform was designed by Oscar de la Renta, and epaulettes were implemented so that people can quickly distinguish which program a person represents in a room full of people wearing the same uniform, and it accomplished that.
        As for who wears silver or gold epaulettes, logically it seems that council/district staff wear silver to denote their importance to the day-to-day work of Scouting rather than putting national in silver to denote rank.

        • Take a look at the laurel leaf colors on the commissioner patches as well. District/unit/roundtable have gold leaves on their commissioner patches, while council/regional/area/national have silver leaves on their commissioner patches.

    • The question we should all be asking is why they flipped the order for the Journey to Excellence levels?

      It just doesn’t sound like a real Boy Scout’s award when gold is elevated above silver!

    • Original Scout from England, highest rank is Silver Bear, so in USA, they cant use silver Bear so change to Silver Eagle then later on change to Eagle Scout (color will be silver). Also don’t want to mess up between Girl Scout, They earn bronze, then silver and lastly Gold palm.

  2. huh, never knew you could wear them on your knot… Cool. Guess I’ll be getting another set of ’em, in that case.

    • No need, just switch them between the medal and shirt. When you’re wearing your medal you wouldn’t double-display them on your knot, you’d just have them on your medal, and vice-versa.

  3. You should point out that you only wear 1 palm until you earn a silver then the silver stays for good and you start over again. I often see boys with 2 bronze, a silver, and a gold on their ribbon

  4. could you create a chart that shows the proper number of palms to wear beyond the initial Silver palm… For instance, for +40 merit badges beyond the Eagle.

    • Margee; I’ve send a copy of the poster/PDF to Bryan and as I mentioned, it will be posted as a link from the Eagle Palms page this evening after work. Thank you for asking for such a chart; my chart only goes up to four Silver Palms but I think that everyone could figure out what goes next after four Silver Palms.

      (Your Scout would earn in this order: Bronze, Gold, Silver; Silver and Bronze, Silver and Gold, two Silver; two Silver and Bronze and finally two Silver and Gold. He would earn each, which will take him about two years after he earned Eagle to earn and be entitled to wear the two Silver and a Gold Palm on his Eagle badge and the ribbon of the Eagle medal.)

  5. Scouting uniforms had original ties to military uniform traditions. In American officer ranks, the silver of an insignia is a higher rank than the gold (silver bar First Lieutenant/Lieutenant J.G. outranks a gold bar Second Lieutenant/Ensign and a silver leaf Lieutenant Colonel/Commander outranks a gold leaf Major/Lieutenant Commander). Thus the higher ranking silver palm, the highest award in Venturing (for now) being the Silver Award, Cub Scouting arrow points awarding silver after gold, and perhaps even the silver borders for Eagle required merit badges.

  6. Mikemenn – I heard or read that it follows the military’s tradition in officer rank insignia in that silver colored ranks are higher than gold colored ranks. For example, 1st Lieutenant (silver) is higher than 2d Lieutenant (gold), Lt Colonel (silver) is higher than Major (gold). Flag officers (generals) and Colonels are also silver.

  7. When I began earning palms, I understood that multiple palms could be worn in any combination to indicate the number of merit badges earned + time served (can’t forget the 3 months active in troop req–another motivator to not wait until 17 to earn Eagle), so I wear all 3 on my ribbon (silver=15 + gold=10 + bronze=5 for 30), but I have also heard that it should just be 2 silvers. Is this OK, like personal preference of knot positions, or is there a “right” way the palms should be displayed?

    • Hi Seth!!

      You only wear Palms which you have EARNED. For instance, you wear only a Silver Palm (representing 15 merit badges over Eagle) when you have EARNED it — not just because you have 31 merit badges over Eagle.

      So yes, each three months, and in meeting the OTHER requirements, you earn a Palm… which means that for a 14 year old Scout, that it’s possible for him to earn four or five Silver Palms (assuming that he earns a Palm every “quarter” after earning Eagle until he turns 18 years old).

      You don’t wear ALL THREE — you wear the HIGHEST COMBINATION EARNED. So for instance, you earned Eagle in March. Meeting all requirements in June, you earn the Bronze Palm. In September, you earn the Gold Palm; and in December you earn the Silver Palm. You only wear ONE Palm – the highest one you have EARNED.

      In March of next year, you earn the SECOND Bronze Palm. You wear the Silver AND Bronze Palm together. In June, you wear the Silver and GOLD Palm together, as you will have earned the second Gold Palm. And in September of next year, meeting all requirements, you wear both Silver Palms (two) together.

      And it goes onward until either you exhaust the official BSA merit badge list, you turn 18 years old (Boy/Varsity Scout advancement ENDS at 18 — you may be a Venturer at that time, but you cannot earn any more merit badges nor earn any more Palms after you’ve turned 18 years of age!) or you tire of the process.

      The key is that, although you’ve earned perhaps 63 merit badges, you have to wear the *highest combination of Palms you have EARNED* with the Eagle cloth badge (or on the Eagle medal’s ribbon).

    • By the rules you should never be wearing all three palms at once (Bronze, Gold, and Silver). This is a common occurance but once earning an additional 15 you’d trade up for the two silver that you earned.

      Another common occurnace is wearing ALL palms earned. You ONLY wear the CORRECT combination of palms earned. I earned three silver plams and wear only the three silver, on my knot and metal.

      • Hey Joe:

        The “highest single or combination of Palms EARNED” is what should be worn. You’re correct in stating that all three Palms are NEVER worn together; it is either a single Palm (Bronze, Gold, Silver) or a combination of one or several Silver Palms with *either* a Gold or Bronze Palm.

        However, one does not “trade up” the three Palms for a second Silver; the second Silver Palm, like ALL Palms, are *earned*.

        • Mike, thank you that is very true and is what I meant by my statement. You obviously would be earning the next Silver Palm to be worn and NOT trading in two for another. All sequences are earned with additonal merit badges and requirements. Again thank you for the claification, all too often people read things very literally.

          This is just an area that has become a big pet peeve from people wearing all Palms or in combinations that I know cannot exist.

  8. Brian,I may be mistaken but I believe the Insignia Guide also allows for adult Scouters to wear the Eagle Scout Medal on special occasions (Eagle Court of Honor, Eagle events, etc.), not just youth.

    • Hugh (and others):
      It is BSA PRACTICE and POLICY that those who have earned the Eagle Scout Award be able to wear the Award during formal events. That’s both youth and adults; and the Palms apply to both wear by youth and adult members who qualified for such additional recognition.

      The Insignia Guide is being revised over the summer to “fix” (highlight) things like that…*smiling* but your reminder is timely.

  9. That’s a great way to lose palms when worn on the badge itself. I have been to many scout events where scouts have lost assorted pins, looped patches, etc. The back clasp on the pins is not strong enough to hold on through all the material and the loops on patches are sometimes not stitched properly. Page 14 of the PDF document at the link below has a chart for palms:

  10. To follow-up on Bryan’s great explaination… here’s how the display of the Eagle Palms *on the Eagle Scout cloth badge* can be accomphished:

    – the BEST way is to attach the Palm to either the top or bottom part of the inside white area of the Eagle Scout cloth badge. Do this by laying the shirt on a bed or over a piece of smooth syroform and press the Palm hard so that the stem of the Palm (the sharp part!! Be careful!!) goes through the cloth badge. Attach the Palm with the “button” INSIDE the pocket so that you have a layer of cloth between the “button” and your skin.

    I have found that by first IRONING the cloth Eagle Badge to the pocket before “poking it” works the best.

    As you earn susquent Palms, the Bronze Palm is REPLACED by the Gold Palm; and REPLACED by the Silver Palm; and then you place the second Bronze Palm BELOW on the white portion of the Eagle cloth badge.

    – the second best way is to attach the Palm IMMEDIATELY ABOVE or BELOW the Eagle Scout cloth badge on the pocket itself. Not as “neat” as placing it ON the badge itself…but some of the “stems” are shorter in lenght than others, so the first method may be a bit frustrating.

    – a third best way is to purchase a clear rank “keeper” from your Scout Shop(tm) or Council trading post and attaching the Palm to the Eagle Scout cloth rank. Not as “nice” as actually attaching it to the uniform itself, but it does the purpose.

    As a small reminder: the CLOTH EAGLE BADGE is ONLY worn by YOUTH MEMBERS (youth defined by the BSA as Boy/Varsity Scouts to age 18; Venturers to age 21) centered on the left pocket of the field uniform.

  11. Anybody actually bend the pin so it can hook back around and through the badge then solder it shut (keeping the cloth safe from the heat all the while)?

    Sounds crazy, but it might just be a neat trick for welding MB enthusiasts!

  12. I have heard that the rank of the three bronze, gold, silver was determined by the relative ease of getting the metal; bronze was made from readily available materials, gold could be found in its relatively pure form (nuggets), but silver had to be processed from the ore to get pure silver.

  13. Actually it’s incorrect that “only adults” can wear the Eagle Scout knot. Sea Scouts may wear the Eagle knot since Sea Scouting has their own rank system Apprentice, Ordinary, Able, and Quartermaster. 😉

  14. I was told was at the time of 1910 the price of an ounce of silver was higher then the price of an ounce of gold.

      • Because palms belong on the knot or on the drape of the medal, not on the patch. “Informally” means not according to the rules. This is yet another example of national caving in to the lowest common denominator. I’m not surprised. Saddened, but not surprised.

  15. Unlike the USA, where we used the gold standard for our monetary system, in Britain they used Silver as their standard of currency. From this, silver is considered the peak. Therefore, many top scouting award silver.

  16. What are the percentages of Eagle Scouts that go on to earn Bronze, Gold & Silver Palms? Second Bronze, Gold & Silver Palms? Third Bronze, Gold & Silver Palms?

    • We really don’t know for sure, Jeff. Since Eagle Palms are not reported nationally, there are no national stats on how many Scouts earn the Bronze, Gold or Silver Palms (or any combination above those three…). I did a very informal survey back in the 90s, contacting the top 50 local Councils and asking them how many Palms did they record in that previous year…but those numbers are not valid today in view of two changes to the Boy Scout advancement program since 1995 (when I did this).

      Hopefully, our local Councils will report, if for no other reason than for statistical reasons, the number of Eagle Scouts who have earned a Palm in the previous year.

    • In the same way that youth members wear Eagle Palms on the cloth Eagle Badge, Glibscribbler, adults wear Eagle Palms on the standard Eagle Scout square knot insignia or the NESA Life Member Eagle Scout square knot insignia.

      Whether the “stems” of the palms are up or down, does not matter. The Palm(s) are worn centered on the square knot insignia in the same manner and reason as explained above.

  17. yes for adults and palms on their knots.

    Has anyone done the math concerning the maximum number of palms that could be earned if a kid entered Boy Scouts at the minimum age, and earned all his rank advancements in the minimum time he had to wait “in grade”? I want to say that the maximum number of palms to be earned would be around 20, meaning, kids that earn all the merit badges (yes there are currently a few of them out there) will never get all the palms their merit badge production would warrant.

    I tend to go both ways on kids that earn them all. Some are really super duper nice kids, and really get the whole Scouting message thing. Others are just doing it because they’re trying to get everything they can for themselves, and never really get the whole “give back” and show leadership thing that is so intrinsic to the overall Scouting movement and message.

    • Mr. Bubbles wrote in part and asked us:

      “Has anyone done the math concerning the maximum number of palms that could be earned if a kid entered Boy Scouts at the minimum age, and earned all his rank advancements in the minimum time he had to wait “in grade”? I want to say that the maximum number of palms to be earned would be around 20, meaning, kids that earn all the merit badges (yes there are currently a few of them out there) will never get all the palms their merit badge production would warrant.”

      Assuming that an Eagle Scout joined Scouting at age 11 (I know he could become a Boy Scout six months earlier, but my calculations started at 11), he earns First Class at 12 and Eagle at 13.6 (13 and a half) years old.

      He earns the first set of Palms right after he turns 14. He earns the second set at 15 and the third set before he gets his drivers’ license at 16 years of age. He would earn the fourth set before he turns 16.6 and he would earn the last three palms before his 18th birthday. To my calculations, that’s five Silver Palms and a Gold Palm; or to break it down into actual numbers of merit badges, it would be at least 85 merit badges over the 21 he used to earn Eagle. Or 106 merit badges from the existing merit badge list. Extremely impressive!

      There are some Scouts who started a little earlier, however, and have managed to earn ALL of the available merit badges before they turned 18 (in which the BSA’s advancement program for Boy and Varsity Scouts end; one cannot earn Boy Scout advancement as a Venturer unless they are also a Boy or Varsity Scout). This would mean in those cases, a total of seven Silver Palms and a Bronze Palm, or 110 merit badges above the 21 merit badges (and an assumption is that there would be new merit badges to earn by then which exceeds the current merit badge list).

      (and no, I’m NOT a math geek and don’t play one on TV…a parent asked me that very question so that “he could get his Bear Cub Scout working toward that goal”…I wrote him back and told him “I’d just be happy with him becoming Eagle. It’s a great goal, but only if HE wants to do it…since there’s no “super Mario Brothers” award from the BSA if he earns them all!”)

      • Here is the actual math:

        There are currently 134 merit badges available. And a Scout COULD have earned the 4 Historic Badges in 2010, making a maximum of 138 badges. If you subtract the 21 required for Eagle, you are left with 117. So the theoretical current maximum number of palms is 23 ( 115 additional merit badges beyond Eagle). That would give him 7 Silver Palms and an 8th Gold Palm.

        At 3 months per Palm, that would take a minimum of 69 months (5 years and 9 months) after the Eagle Board of Review. So to earn the maximum, the Eagle Board of Review would need to be held no later than 3 months after the Scouts 12th birthday, and the Board of Review for each palm would need to be held exactly 3 months after the previous Board of Review.

        If you add in the tenure requirements for Star (4 months), Life (6 months), and Eagle (6 months) which total 1 year + 4 months, the Scout would need to have his First Class Board of Review no later than 1 month BEFORE his 11th Birthday, again with each Board of Review held exactly 4 or 6 months after the previous Board of Review.

        If he earned the Arrow of Light Award as a Cub Scout, he could join when he turned 10 years old. That would give him no more than 11 months to earn Tenderfoot, Second Class & First Class.

        • While I was close, I ALWAYS defer to Paul Wolf…he’s been counting and keeping track of Boy Scouting’s many merit badges for at least a couple decades… Thank you Paul for fixing my math…*smiling*

  18. And to answer Joann’s question (which she was too shy to post it on a BSA page… *smiling*), if you received either the Distinguished or Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, you have the personal option of wearing either the gold Eagle device (Distinguished Eagle Scout Award), the silver Eagle device (Outstanding Eagle Scout Award), or/and any Eagle Palms you earned on ONE square knot insignia.

    BSA insignia policies say that you don’t wear two of the same square knot insignia (there is a couple of exceptions, but we’re talking about in general terms here…), so you have to make a choice of which you desire to wear.

    Personally, when I am or around youth, I’ll wear my Silver and Gold Palms on either Eagle square knot insignia, depending on uniform shirt; when I’m around adults, I’ll wear the Outstanding Eagle Scout Award device on the square knot patch. But that’s *me*

  19. Will the National Council consider allowing Eagle Palms be considered for rank advancement for the Journey to Excellence? It would help not only to focus on further Eagle Scout advancement but recognize the troop’s on-going engagement of having Eagle Scouts participate in the troop. Thank you.

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