Signs, Signals, and Codes

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Revision as of 14:00, October 9, 2018

Resources include the Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge worksheet in PDF format Adobe Acrobat PDF and Word format Microsoft Word DOC document, links, and cross-references to related badges and awards.
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The Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge is an option for the Designed to Crunch, Harris Bronze Supernova, and Edison Silver Supernova STEM Nova Awards.

Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge
Status: Elective
Created: 2015
Discontinued: no
BSA Advancement ID: 157
Requirements revision: 2015
Latest pamphlet revision: 2015


American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most used language in the United States. The Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge will cover Morse code, ASL, Braille, signaling, trail markings, and other nonverbal communications. Did you know that some of these have even saved people’s lives?

Signs, Signals, and Codes merit badge requirements

  1. Discuss with your counselor the importance of signs, signals, and codes, and why people need these different methods of communication. Briefly discuss the history and development of signs, signals, and codes.
  2. Explain the importance of signaling in emergency communications. Discuss with your counselor the types of emergency or distress signals one might use to attract airborne search-and-rescue personnel if lost in the outdoors or trying to summon assistance during a disaster. Illustrate these signaling examples by the use of photos or drawings.
  3. Do the following:
    a. Describe what Morse code is and the various means by which it can be sent. Spell your first name using Morse code. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using Morse code.
    b. Describe what American Sign Language (ASL) is and how it is used today. Spell your first name using American Sign Language. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using ASL.
  4. Give your counselor a brief explanation about semaphore, why it is used, how it is used, and where it is used. Explain the difference between semaphore flags and nautical flags. Then do the following:
    a. Spell your first name using semaphore. Send or receive a message of six to 10 words using semaphore.
    b. Using illustrations or photographs, identify 10 examples of nautical flags and discuss their importance.
  5. Explain the braille reading technique and how it helps individuals with sight impairment to communicate. Then do the following:
    a. Either by sight or by touch, identify the letters of the braille alphabet that spell your name. By sight or touch, decode a braille message at least six words long.
    b. Create a message in braille at least six words long, and share this with your counselor.
    To satisfy the braille writing requirement 5b for this merit badge, you do not need to emboss braille dots in thick paper. Rather, you may use a pencil or pen to draw the dots on ordinary paper, copying the characters of the braille alphabet to spell out your message letter by letter.
  6. Do the following:
    a. Describe to your counselor six sound-only signals that are in use today. Discuss the pros and cons of using sound signals versus other types of signals.
    b. Demonstrate to your counselor six different silent Scout signals. Use these Scout signals to direct the movements and actions of your patrol or troop.
  7. On a Scout outing, lay out a trail for your patrol or troop to follow. Cover at least one mile in distance and use at least six different trail signs and markers. After the Scouts have completed the trail, follow no-trace principles by replacing or returning trail markers to their original locations.
  8. For THREE of the following activities, demonstrate five signals each. Tell what the signals mean and why they are used:
    a. Sports official’s hand signs/signals
    b. Heavy-equipment operator’s hand signals
    c. Aircraft carrier catapult crew signals
    d. Cyclist’s hand signals
    e. An activity selected by you and your counselor
  9. Share with your counselor 10 examples of symbols used in everyday life. Design your own symbol. Share it with your counselor and explain what it means. Then do the following:
    a. Show examples of 10 traffic signs and explain their meaning.
    b. Using a topographical map, explain what a map legend is and discuss its importance. Point out 10 map symbols and explain the meaning of each.
    c. Discuss text-message symbols and why they are commonly used. Give examples of your favorite 10 text symbols or emoticons. Then see if your counselor or parent can identify the meaning or usage of each symbol.
  10. Briefly discuss the history of secret code writing (cryptography). Make up your own secret code and write a message of up to 25 words using this code. Share the message with a friend or fellow Scout. Then share the message and code key with your counselor and discuss the effectiveness of your code.

The official source for the information shown in this is:
Boy Scout Requirements, 2018 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #641568)

View the change list (history) of these requirements. The text of these requirements may be locked. In that case, they can only be edited
by an administrator.
Please note any errors found in the above requirements on this article's Talk Page.


Worksheet A FREE workbook for Signs, Signals, and Codes is available here! (PDF or Word) with the maps, charts, links, diagrams, and checklists you need! Or click here to print just the Signs, Signals, and Codes requirements. has PDF and Word versions of workbooks for Scouts BSA ranks and merit badges, Cub Scouting ranks and adventures, and STEM Nova awards.

Requirement resources

3.a. Boys' Life Morse Code Machine online game • Learn Morse Code OnlineMorse Code Practice pageMorse Code practice files (mp3)KY8D’s Morse Code PageLearning Morse CodeUse Google’s Morse code keyboard, flash cards to teach Scouts their dits and dahs

Related awards

Merit Badges
  • Bugling
    • 3. (Sound the following bugle calls: "First call", "Reveille", "Assembly", "Mess", "Drill", "Fatigue", "Officers", "Recall", "Church", "Swimming", "Fire", "Retreat", "To the Colors", "Call to Quarters", and "Taps")
    • 4. (Explain when each of the calls in requirement 3 is used.)
  • Indian Lore requirement:
    • 7.d. (Show 25 signs in Indian sign language. Include those that will help you ask for water, for food, and where the path or road leads.) could satisfy Signs, Signals, and Codes requirement 8.e. (For THREE of the following activities, demonstrate five signals each. Tell what the signals mean and why they are used: ... e. An activity selected by you and your counselor)
  • Radio requirements:
    • 5 (Discuss how information is sent when using continuous wave (CW) Morse Code transmission)
    • 9.a.4. (Explain how you would make an emergency call on voice or Morse code.)
    • 9.a.6. (Using proper call signs, Q signals, and abbreviations, carry on a 10-minute real or simulated amateur radio contact using voice, Morse code, or digital mode.)
  • Signaling (Centennial merit badge) (available to earn only in the year 2010).
  • Traffic Safety requirement:
    • 4.c. (Explain how color and shape are used to help road users recognize and understand the information presented on traffic and roadway signs. Explain the purpose of different types of signs, signals, and pavement markings.)
  • Wilderness Survival requirements:
    • 7.b. (Demonstrate how to use a signal mirror.)
    • 7.c. (Describe from memory five ground-to-air signals and tell what they mean.)
Other Awards and Recognitions
  • American Sign Language Interpreter Strip
  • Morse Code Interpreter Strip
  • Scuba BSA award requirement:
    • 7. (While underwater, demonstrate and recognize the following hand signals: ...)
    • 14. (While underwater, locate and read submersible pressure gauge and signal whether the air supply is adequate or low based on the gauge’s caution zone.)
  • STEM Nova Awards Designed to Crunch (for Boy Scouts) and Numbers Don't Lie (for Venturers):
    • 1.A. (Watch about three hours total math-related shows or documentaries that involve ... or cryptography ...)
    • 1.B. (... discuss and explain cryptography or the discoveries of people who worked extensively with cryptography ...)
    • 1.C. (Read at least three articles (about three hours total) about physics, math, modeling, or cryptography)
  • Ranger Award core requirements:
    • 2.a. Communications (Take a communications-related training class that includes at least 15 hours of training. This could be a non-required course at school such as ... American Sign Language ...)
    • 7.c. Wilderness Survival (Learn about and then make a tabletop display or presentation for your crew, another crew, a Cub Scout or Boy Scout unit, or another youth group on the following subjects: i. Emergency signals used in the outdoors ...)
Sea Scouting
  • Apprentice rank requirement:
    • 5.b. Safety: (Identify visual day and night marine distress signals, and know their location and the proper use for your ship’s vessel(s).)
  • Ordinary rank:
    • requirement 9.f. Navigation Rules: (Describe the sound signals for maneuvering, warning, and restricted visibility.)
    • Racing elective 1. (Describe the procedures used in yacht racing and the signals used by the race committee to start a race)
    • Racing elective 2.i. (Demonstrate your understanding of the shapes, flag hoists, gun, and horn signals used in yacht racing)
    • Communication elective 3. (Draw the International Code flags and pennants from memory and give the single-letter meanings (Alpha = Have diver down, keep clear) of the flags. ...)

See also

Scouts BSA portal
Venturing portal
Sea Scout portal
General Merit Badge information

External links

Personal tools