Wood Badge

From Academic Kids

Wood Badge Beads

The Wood Badge is the recognition received by adults in Scouting who have completed the Scoutmaster training program provided by their respective National Scout Association. Those who successfully complete the training receive recognition in the form of two wooden beads on bootlace. A Wood Badge recipient is called a Wood Badger or Gilwellian.

Additional beads are awarded to Wood Badgers who serve as part of their council's Wood Badge training team. One additional bead is awarded to Assistant Leader Trainers (Wood Badge Staff) and two additional beads are awarded to Leader Trainers (Wood Badge Course Director), for a total of four.

As part of a tradition that is not widely practiced, if at all, a total of five beads is worn by the National Scout Association's person in charge of Wood Badge trainings. This symbolizes his position as the official representative of Gilwell in his country and as a Deputy Camp Chief of Gilwell.

Scouting's founder Robert Baden-Powell himself wore a total of six beads which he passed on to Sir Percy Everett, then Deputy Chief Scout. Percy in turn gave the six beads to Gilwell to be worn by the Gilwell Camp Chief as a badge of office. This tradition continues today.


The training was first conducted by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, on September 8, 1919 at Gilwell Park. At the conclusion of the training he awarded each participant a wooden bead from a necklace he received from Dinizulu, a Zulu chieftain. The supply of original beads has long been exhausted and the beads awarded today are replicas.

History of Wood Badge in the US

In 1936, an experimental course was conducted, along with a Rover Wood Badge Course. However, it wasn't until 1948 that Wood Badge training was officially inaugurated in the United States. Since that time it has grown and developed and become a key motivating force in the training of volunteer leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.

During the 1950s, Wood Badge courses were conducted by the Boy Scouts of America exclusively for the purpose of training representatives from councils in methods of training and how to help with the leadership training programs of their own councils. Participants were required to subscribe to an agreement of service to this effect. Courses were mainly run at Schiff Scout Reservation and Philmont Scout Ranch. Also during this time, an Explorer Wood Badge course was available.

Starting around 1958, qualified local councils were authorized to conduct their own Wood Badge courses to provide advanced leadership training for Scoutmasters and those Scouters who support troop operations. With regional approval, two or more local councils may also cooperate in conducting this training experience in a cluster-council Wood Badge course.

In the late 1960’s, the principles of leadership development were introduced experimentally into Wood Badge. By 1972, they had become an integral part of the program. The skills of leadership were emphasized in Wood Badge as a means of fostering the growth of up-to-date leadership knowledge, skills, and attitudes among Scouting’s leaders. By the late 1970’s, Wood Badge had further evolved. Revisions completed in 1979 provided a continued emphasis on leadership skills, balanced by both Scoutcraft and program activities. By this time, the BSA was delivering three different Wood Badge courses: Boy Scout Leader Wood Badge, Cub Scout Trainer Wood Badge, and (later) Varsity Scout Wood Badge. Not to be left out, Explorer leaders in the western states developed Explorer Leader Institute, and Sea Scout Leaders developed Sea Badge.

The course content was revised in 1994 to incorporate key elements of Ethics in Action introduced into Boy Scout training and literature between 1991-1995.

A new version of advanced leadership training, "21st Century Wood Badge", was introduced in 2003. This Wood Badge course is aimed at ALL adult leaders in the BSA, and eliminated the need for the previous Cub Scout Trainer and Varsity Scout Wood Badge courses, or the need to develop a "Venturing Wood Badge". Sea Badge is still offered. Wood Badge continues to provide advanced training in the most current methods of the Boy Scouts of America.

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