Welcome to the Family: It’s the same great Scouting program, now available to all

A powerful thought had lodged itself into 10-year-old Matilda Moreland’s head: “We’re gonna mess up.”

Sophia Robertory, 10, was thinking how embarrassing it would be to trip and fall in front of 33,000 people.

Anatolia Madeline Jenson, also 10, was supposed to carry the American flag onto the field, but her hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

But then a booming voice at Nationals Park in D.C., home to baseball’s Washington Nationals, announced “Cub Scout Pack 873 from Annandale, Va.,” and the coolest thing happened. All that anxiety faded away. The girls had entered some kind of zone.

In April, for the first time in Major League Baseball history, an all-girl Cub Scout den led the opening flag ceremony. It was another shining moment in a year of history-making firsts for the Boy Scouts of America.

The Cub Scouts walked confidently onto the field, holding the American and pack flags as a choir performed the national anthem. The girls not holding flags bent their right hands in two-fingered salutes. The men and women serving as den leaders watched with pride nearby. The crowd went nuts. Nobody tripped.

“When you’re actually doing it, it’s pretty easy,” Matilda says. “And I felt a lot of relief when we were done. I felt really proud of our den.”

Later, den leader Luke Rose capitalized on a teaching moment — specifically point 10 of the Scout Law.

“We had a short talk about how they all were incredibly brave,” he says. “They knew they had practiced. They knew what to do, and so they did their duty despite their fear.”

As the Cub Scouts found their way to Section 407 to watch the game, people pointed and waved. Some even offered high-fives.

“Adults would approach to tell us that they are Eagle Scouts,” Rose says, “to which the Cub Scouts would say that they would be, too. Someday.”

Cub Scouting for Everybody

It’s a tradition as old as Cub Scouting itself. Every month, a Cub Scout pack meets — maybe in a church basement or the gym at an elementary school — and it’s not just the boys who show up. It’s the entire family.

Little sisters, older brothers, maybe even some babies. It’s awesome. And noisy.

The leaders, wisely, involve everyone in the crafts, the games, the snacks, the skits and the songs. Everyone learns how to use a compass or fold a flag or prepare for a hike.

By the end of the evening, it’s time to recognize those who have completed Adventure Loop requirements. Bring on the shiny belt bling.

But wait. The girls may stay seated. This part is for boys only.

That is, until now.

Cub Scouting has opened its doors to boys and girls alike. Dens must be single-gender, but packs may now include only girl dens, only boy dens or boy dens and girl dens in the same pack. Consult your chartered organization before proceeding, and then go have fun.

“What hasn’t changed is the program that Cub Scouting offers to youth and families,” Rose says. “The youth get the games; the families get the purpose behind the games. Every kid likes to play games, and every parent wants what’s best for their child. That is why Cub Scouts is for girls and boys and their families.”

Best. News. Ever.

Ten-year-old Rachel Istook remembers exactly what she was doing when she got the news that changed her life. She was eating chicken curry.

It was October 2017, and Rachel’s mom, Joanne, saw the news on her phone that the BSA was welcoming girls into all programs. Thanks to an opportunity called “Early Adopters,” this meant select councils and packs could begin welcoming girls into Cub Scouting right away.

“I squealed and jumped up and down and jumped all the way into the kitchen,” Rachel says. “My parents told me to calm down and that they would try to find me a pack. I had already been planning to join a Venturing crew when I turned 14, but learning that I could join now was so exciting.”

Rachel joined Pack 641 of Beaverton, Ore. So did her brother, 8-year-old Zachary.

“Logistically, the best part for me is having a single meeting time and place for both children,” Joanne Istook says. “Being in the same pack, but separate dens, is the perfect combination because it gives them lots of shared experiences that have helped them grow closer as siblings, while still providing adventures and activities that are aimed at their different ages and abilities.”

Hooked on Scouting

When Lora Panepinto of Staten Island, N.Y., was in the first grade, her older brother, Marko, was working on the Fishing merit badge. Lora had been joining her brother at every Cub Scout activity since age 2, and she wanted to be part of his Boy Scout experience as well.

While she couldn’t go on the Boy Scout campouts, she learned the same skills. So when Marko learned how to tie fishing knots, identify lures, and clean and cook a fish on his own, Lora did, too. Lora even filled out her own paperwork for the Fishing merit badge and gave it to her mom.

“She couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to get the badge since she was a ‘better fisherman than Marko,’ ” mom Snazzy Panepinto says with a laugh.

Lora, now 13, couldn’t earn that merit badge before. But she’ll be among the first to join Scouts BSA in February. When she does, she wants to earn the Fishing merit badge and at least 20 more. She plans to be an Eagle Scout.

“You could say we were doing family Scouting before it actually existed,” Panepinto says. “I am ecstatic and relieved because girls like my daughter are finally able to participate in the program and get recognition for their achievements.”

Let’s Hear It From the Boys

And what do boys think of their sisters joining their Cub Scout pack, albeit in separate dens?

You’ll find many like 8-year-old Colin Williams of Pack 7012 from Keizer, Ore. His 6-year-old sister, Marin, just joined a Tiger den in his pack.

“I was like, now my sister could be a Cub Scout? That’s so cool!” Colin says. “It is really nice to have your family around.”

After all, why wouldn’t Colin want the largest possible audience for his favorite skit, “The Invisible Bench”?

“It’s where this guy starts out pretending he is sitting on an invisible bench and then some other guys join him,” Colin says. “And then a guy comes and says, ‘I moved that thing two years ago,’ and they all go like, ‘Aaah!’ and fall down.”

For Colin’s parents, Sean and Jodie, the benefits of enjoying Scouting as a family are no joke.

“It gives Jodie and me a common set of values to refer to as we raise them,” Sean says. “Besides that, it was hard to explain why Marin was excluded from certain activities just because she wasn’t ‘officially’ a Scout.”


How to Start a Den or Pack

Flyers and billboards look great, but Luke Rose, a Webelos den leader with Pack 873 of Annandale, Va., says there’s no recruiting technique that tops word of mouth.

“Cub Scout events are fun, and the Scouts talk about them in school, at other civic organizations and around their neighborhoods,” he says. “We posted pictures of the activities on social media sites, which drew interest and got parents and grandparents talking.”

As you add girl dens to your existing pack, begin with the obvious. Talk to every sister, cousin, neighbor and school friend of the boys in your pack. Start there, and your pack will thrive.

“After the shock of seeing a girl classmate in a field uniform wore off, the boy Cub Scouts didn’t care one bit that there were girls at their pack meeting,” Rose says.

Here are his top tips:

  1. Don’t overthink it. If you’re a veteran Cub Scouter with a year or two under your belt, this is the same program you’ve been perfecting since you started. If you’re new, just follow the handbook, keep it simple and have fun.
  2. Ask for help. Find someone from a nearby pack or den who is willing to share ideas for can’t-miss meeting activities and memorable outings in your community.
  3. Recruit and train volunteers. Start with the parents of your Cub Scouts. Now that their son and daughter can join the same pack, they’ll spend less time shuttling kids from one activity to the next and more time enjoying Scouting as a family.
  4. Communicate often. Keep your families informed about upcoming meetings and events. Share frequent updates with your chartered organization to let them know their support is making a difference.
  5. Take lots of photos. Nothing tells the Cub Scouting story quite like a picture. Take photos any time your Cub Scouts gather. With the parents’ permission, share those photos online so others can see the joy of Cub Scouting.
  6. Be accommodating. Understand that new families are still learning the basics about Cub Scouting. Be welcoming and patient as you explain the difference between a Wolf and a Webelos. Remind them you once were in their shoes.
  7. Don’t let detractors get to you. “The bottom line is that our goal is to deliver character development and values-based leadership to the youth of America,” Rose says. “If someone is unwilling to support your pursuit of that goal, be friendly and courteous, and then find others that will help.”

Hello, Scouts BSA!

The wait is over, and we now know what we’ll call the program for 11- to 17-year-old youth when girls can begin joining at the scheduled launch on Feb. 1, 2019.

Say hello to Scouts BSA!

Boys and girls who are part of Scouts BSA will be known as Scouts. Just as before, these Scouts will earn merit badges, go camping and work toward the Eagle Scout Award.

The organization name, Boy Scouts of America, will not change.

“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible,” says BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh. “That is why it is important that the name for our iconic Scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single-name approach used for the Cub Scouts.”

Beginning during the scheduled launch of Feb. 1, 2019, girls can join all-girl troops. Boys can continue to join all-boy troops. Scouts BSA will not have any mixed-gender, or coed, troops.


Scout Them In, ASAP

In the photo, seventh-grader Lena Towne stands next to her Eagle Scout brother, Jack.

She’s smiling and wearing a shirt that says, “Sister of an Eagle Scout.”

Thanks to Scouts BSA, girls like Lena can work toward and earn the Eagle Scout Award beginning next year. When that time comes, Lena likes to joke that she’ll buy a similar shirt for Jack: “Brother of an Eagle Scout.”

As families across the country prepare for the launch of Scouts BSA next year, a group of girls and their parents in Georgia wants to form one of the first all-girl troops in the state.

“My brother and grandfather are Eagles, and I helped my brother with his project,” Lena says. “I want to be part of making history.”

How to Start an All-Girl Troop

Christine Burrell is one of the adults who will help Lena’s dream come true. Right now, she’s an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 827 of Duluth, Ga. She’s been a Wood Badge staffer and roundtable commissioner, too.

In February, she plans to add another title to her Scouting résumé: co-founder of an all-girl Scouts BSA troop.

“We are all involved in Scouting, so it’s easy to find girls who are adventurous and want to explore the unique experiences the BSA program has to offer,” she says. Burrell sees the path to starting a new troop as a five-step process:

  1. Put together a dream team of dedicated Scout leaders who want their daughters to have the same opportunities their sons have had. Get your district leaders involved to make sure you have their support.
  2. Share this opportunity in your personal networks, and tell the girls about all the fun they will have. “It’s not a hard sell,” Burrell says.
  3. Find a chartered organization to support the troop.
  4. Have the girls think of some fun outings and begin to informally gather and get to know each other.
  5. “Charter in February as soon as they’ll take our forms,” Burrell says.

So Far, So Good

Earlier this year, Kim Towne (Lena and Jack’s mom) and a handful of other BSA leaders held an interest meeting for girls and their parents.

“We had eight to 10 girls ranging from fifth to seventh grade already excited about the program,” Towne says. “It took just a few of us to start a Boy Scout troop from scratch four years ago, and we have a very supportive chartered organization that welcomes the new inclusivity of BSA as a whole.”

Towne says recruiting is all word of mouth for now. Once the troop officially forms next year, she and her fellow leaders will pursue traditional avenues like working with local packs and establishing a presence in the community and schools.

The biggest hurdle, she says, will be educating families about the program. She’ll need to explain the format of Scouts BSA, which will include all-boy troops and all-girl troops but no mixed-gender troops. Beyond that, the girls themselves will be the best recruiters.

Like sixth-grader Katie Brown, who is interested in Scouting’s many high-adventure opportunities.

“I want to challenge myself in the outdoors and grow my self-confidence,” she says. “I’m excited by the number and variety of merit badges offered so I can explore new areas.”


What about Venturing, Sea Scouting and Exploring?

Girls have been part of the BSA since 1971 when Exploring began welcoming young women. Exploring, which began as a program for older Scouts, is now the nation’s marquee career-development program for youth. Sea Exploring, now called Sea Scouting, also welcomed young women beginning in 1971. Venturing crews have included young men and young women since the adventure-focused program’s inception in 1998.

What will happen to all these Venturing crews, Sea Scout ships and Explorer posts now that girls are welcome in all BSA programs? If anything, they’ll thrive. Each program offers unique opportunities that appeal to a young person’s specific — and evolving — needs and interests.

Learn more at venturing.org, seascout.org and exploring.org


They Said It

On Facebook, real Scouters have been talking about their Scouting experience.

“I have six girls in my pack! It’s such a nice opportunity for my single mothers and mothers with special-needs children to bring them all to one group, instead of having to try and work and support themselves and run around to various meetings all week long so that their kids can all be involved in something positive.” –Kristina McNutt

“Regardless of your beliefs, there’s a little 7-year-old girl somewhere who already has her uniform and is counting down the days. … That little girl probably knows the Scout Oath and Law, too. If you don’t think she belongs, you might want to take another look at them yourself.” –Corey Doiron

“I am the committee chair for a very successful family pack, and I have to say that the big difference I’ve seen since we became a family pack is … nothing. Nothing at all. We have eight new Cub Scouts in two dens. That’s it. We don’t treat them any differently nor do we act any differently. Perhaps that’s why we’ve been so successful.” –Dave Bussiere

“There weren’t any Life or Eagle Scouts in 1910 — just a bunch of kids and a few adults trying something new and great. Are our girls any less than those Scouts? We’re being responsible leaders and freaking out over paperwork, but the basics are covered. Scouts improvise, adapt and overcome. We got this.” –Robert Landrigan


FAQs

Q: Will dens of girls and troops of girls be required to have female leaders?

A: In Cub Scouts, dens of girls will be required to have at least one registered female leader or a woman who is at least 21 years old and is present at all activities, including meetings. In Scouts BSA, troops of girls will be required to have at least one registered female adult leader who is at least 21 years old.

Q: Are the Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs becoming coed?

A: No. In Cub Scouts, dens will be all-boy or all-girl. Packs will be made up of all-boy dens, all-girl dens or a combination of the two. In Scouts BSA, troops will be all-boy or all-girl. A chartered organization may also have “linked troops,” which means a shared troop committee with separate troops for boys and for girls.

Q: The BSA offered an Early Adopter program for select packs and councils that wanted to welcome girls into Cub Scouts early. Will there be a similar Early Adopter program for older girls in Scouts BSA?

A: No.

Q. Can chartered organizations choose whether to adopt the expanded program?

A: Yes. Chartered organizations always have the option to select from the BSA’s numerous program offerings. They can select any or all of the BSA programs to meet the needs of their members and the communities around them.

Q: Can linked troops share troop numbers?

A: Yes, they can share troop numbers.

Watch this video for a summary of how Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA will function:

2 Comments

  1. “Welcome to the Family: It’s the same great Scouting program, now available to all”

    Unless you don’t believe in any gods.

  2. I think one thing that will be lost is the unique program scouts has for boys learning to be young men comfortably without girls around. I think we all know this is head towards co-ed troops in the next five years. -Mike

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