“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” - Albert Enistein

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Rising Gov. Livingston sophomore Shreyas Agnihotri, of Boy Scout Troop 368, mixed up some of his favorite interests to plan his Eagle Scout Project.

For Agnihotri, his joy in creative expression and knowledge started early with learning about state capitals, when his pre-school teachers gifted him a board book of maps of all 50 states with their capitals, state birds and state flowers. By the time he started elementary school, he was hooked on re-runs of the History Channel show ‘How the States got their shapes’ and as a fifth-grader, he won the Geography Bee at Thomas P. Hughes School. His favorite pastimes are music, solving crosswords and number puzzles, playing trivia games and following sports. He plays several instruments in the Governor Livingston’s Concert Band, Jazz Band, Marching Band and has performed at winners’ recitals at Carnegie Hall.

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An Eagle candidate must propose, plan and lead the execution of a service project to benefit non-profit organizations like schools, churches or government. To earn his Eagle rank, Agnihotri reached out to the Principals of his Elementary School and Middle School, finally deciding on a playground project at the elementary school.

He proposed the plan and obtained approvals from his Project Beneficiary, the Principal of Thomas P. Hughes School, Jessica Nardi and the Berkeley Heights Board of Education. He planned for the design of co-curricular experiences for elementary school learners. 

While researching for potential Eagle projects, Agnihotri found that play-based curriculum is very effective to meet children’s diverse learning needs. As a musician himself, he was familiar with the unique connections that come alive when you use manipulatives in learning. He realized that guided play on a playground could be a source of instructional support for the teachers at Hughes and help them make curricular connections with social studies, science and math. Agnihotri explained, “Introducing elementary school learners to playground games that are connected to their lessons makes the playground an active instructional area.” 

He proposed and painted four play areas on the Hughes blacktop. 

  1. The complete map of the United States that spanned 27 x 16 feet, nearly to the scale of 1 foot to 10 miles;
  2. A Math operations game; 
  3. A scaled model of the solar system; and
  4. Keys for the three basketball hoops. 

As part of his project, Agnihotri also led his fellow Scouts to create a Teacher’s guide for active play associated with these playground games. 

Mrs. Nardi, the Project Beneficiary said, “I love everything about this.  I am honored to be the recipient of such a thoughtful project, and I am so impressed by the quality of the work.”

Agnihotri had planned on working on the project in the Spring of his freshman year because he wanted his older brother, Sohum, an Eagle Scout (also of Troop 368) to be part of his Eagle project before he headed out to attend West Point.

However, he ran into a snag on his intended timeline because of the public health emergency and associated limitations. Due to the social distancing rules in May and June, Agnihotri had to be careful and masked while he shopped for supplies at the hardware store. He had to lead his fellow Scouts virtually on Zoom instead of meeting in person so that they could collectively brainstorm and design the Teacher’s guide, a companion guide created to support the co-curricular instruction of the playground games.

"Scouting’s boy-led philosophy and programs, inculcates independence and confidence without arrogance, and fosters a strong sense of camaraderie and selfless community service. These are incredible values to instill in our youth, and parents today can use all the help they can get," said Vishal Agnihotri, Shreyas and Sohum's mom. 

To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the Scout must hold a series of leadership positions, complete 21 merit badges, learn a host of practical skills, and participate in community service throughout their tenure as a Scout. 

Scouting provided Agnihotri opportunities to serve the community with projects like blood drives, town cleanups and food drives. His Troop’s adventurous campouts helped him explore the outdoors from the Adirondacks to the Appalachian Trail and explore history through camping trips to Steamtown, Boston and the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s WWII weekend.

He still treasures his precious gift of the now well-worn copy of the board book on USA states and thanks all the teachers in his life.