Tiffany Higginson’s first experience with Scouting came at age 16, when her boyfriend showed up for a date wearing his Scout uniform. A third-generation Eagle Scout, Dan had remained active in his troop after becoming an Eagle Scout at 13. He later returned to the troop as a leader. When the couple married and had children — two sons, Brendan and Clay, and a daughter, Alison — there was never any doubt Higginson would become a Scout mom.
An experienced Cubmaster, she had been heavily involved in her sons’ troop committee for several years when, in 2017, the BSA announced its decision to welcome girls into Cub Scouting. As soon as the Abraham Lincoln Council became an early-adopter council, she called her friends at Pack 38 and signed up as the leader of a girls’ den that includes her daughter and Scout Executive Dan O’Brien’s granddaughter Natasha.
“I’m back at it and loving every minute of it,” she says.
Let’s start with everybody’s biggest question: What’s it like to have girls in Cub Scouting?
It’s wonderful! The girls are so excited and ready to learn. I like that the BSA has said we need separate dens. It’s not because I’m worried about a boy’s influence on a girl or vice versa. It’s that they are different creatures. They have different mindsets. They have different things they respond to. They have different activity levels.
Are your girls all sisters of current Scouts?
No. One of my Bears is the oldest of three girls. Her dad was a Cub Scout, but she’d never been exposed to any Scouting program. Her parents were very excited and brought her to kickoff night. Her mom has said she will take a leadership role in the fall.
How do you handle a mixed-age den?
I set up three tables in the room, and I put the different age groups at different tables. Sometimes they do different things, but largely we stay together and do it all. Not everybody needs to make a first-aid kit, but what’s the harm in everybody making a first-aid kit? We follow a blended-den plan that is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen; it has absolutely helped me pull this off.
How do the girls handle spending time with girls of other ages?
It’s really fostering a strong relationship between the different age groups; they are finding camaraderie together. If the younger ones don’t understand something, the older girls jump right in to go through it with them.
What’s it like having the Scout executive’s granddaughter in your den?
That’s been a really cool experience. I’ve always seen him as the professional person. Now I get the privilege to see him as grandpa. You can see the sparkle in his eye. I think he is enjoying being back in the program also.
How do you recruit families new to Cub Scouting?
At our kickoff night, we had our den chiefs work through skits and songs and all that with the girls while the parents were meeting. At the end of the meeting, all the girls came in, lined up in front, and performed their skits and songs. We wanted them to know Scouting’s not all about the book. It’s also about being corny and letting yourself be a little bit goofy, stretching your comfort zone, all while learning something new.
Any planning tips?
We publish an annual calendar that starts in August. It takes five hours in March to build, and the entire committee is involved. It’s a phenomenal recruiting tool; it shows you’ve thought through your program and there won’t be any surprises. We include STEM, religious awards, campouts, community events, and pack and den meetings.
Your pack also emphasizes fall and spring campouts. What are those like?
At our spring campout many years ago, I looked around and saw almost all of our 50 Scouts and their families. There were Christians, Muslims, Jews and more. There were English-as-a-second-language families. There were farmers and doctors and carpenters. The one thing that connected them was Scouting. Everybody just became a Scout family.
Fact Sheet: Tiffany Higginson
Years as a Scout Volunteer: 11
Current City: Springfield, Ill.
Current Position: Den leader for an all-girl den in Pack 38; committee member, Troop 210; merit badge counselor; University of Scouting coordinator
Day Job: Substitute teacher
Most Satisfying Moments in Scouting: “Pinning my Eagle Scout, watching my Life Scout overcoming obstacles he builds for himself and seeing the pure joy on my daughter’s face when I awarded her the First Responder Webelos Adventure pin.”
Favorite Camp: Camp Illinek, Chatham, Ill. “It is our local Cub Scout camp. For me, being there feels like home.”