When most people hear “Scout,” they’ll likely picture an upbeat youth in a sand-brown, collared shirt and forest-green shorts who’s adorned with countless badges and patches. While this description isn’t entirely off-base, in this article, I’ll be telling you what Scouting is really all about!
PS. This article is based on the experiences and research of Eagle Scouts, Kevin A and Cole 🙂
For starters, did you know that Scouting has actually been around for over 100 years? That’s a loooong history! The movement started in England and eventually came to America in 1910 to form the BSA (previously known as the Boy Scouts of America).
Throughout all this time, the core mission of Scouting has remained the same:
The Scouting Mission: To prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
So, what is the Scout Oath and Law, and how does it guide scouts (youth members) in making ethical, civically-minded decisions? Simply put, the Scout Oath and Law serves as a reminder for scouts to focus on their values and strive to become their best selves possible.
Below are the Foundations of Scouting – The Scout Oath and Law:
Scout Oath: On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Scout Law: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
These days, plenty of families are interested in signing their children up for Scouting, as it’s a fun extracurricular activity that builds leadership, confidence, and practical hands-on skills. Plus, earning Scouting’s final rank will allow recipients to write an Eagle Scout college application, which really helps in getting acceptances! 😉
If you’re interested in getting more involved in Scouting, you’re in luck! In this article, I’ll be going into the basics of what Scouting is really about, what Scouts do while in the program, and how Scouts BSA is run.
Important Terminology in Scouting
First, let’s go over some of the most important terminology in Scouting (I’ve cut out a few terms so only the most vital are listed here). If you’re planning on joining a troop, you should definitely be aware of the following terms:
- Scout/scout: “Scouts” with a capital “S” is commonly used to refer to the Scouting program itself. On the other hand, lowercase “scout(s)” is used to refer to youth members.
- Boy Scouts Of America (BSA): This is the name of the overarching organization that offers various Scouting programs like Scouts BSA, Cub Scouting, Venturing, and more. Also called BSA Nationals.
- Scouts BSA: Previously known as “Boy Scouts,” Scouts BSA is the name of the American Scouting program. Both boys and girls aged 11-17 are eligible to join Scouts BSA.
- Troop/Unit: A local group of scouts, Scoutmasters, and volunteers who plan and participate in activities according to the BSA’s Scouting Program.
- Eagle Scout: The highest rank a scout can achieve. The Eagle rank takes at least 2 years to earn (typically 4+) and is known to be very prestigious, even outside the immediate Scouting community. Fewer than 5% of scouts reach Eagle.
What is the Purpose of Scouting?
The BSA is the organization that runs the entire Scouting Program within the United States. However, Scouting exists all around the world, with established programs in 216 countries! So, you might be wondering, with it being so widespread, what’s the point of the BSA and Scouting Program?
To put it simply, a Scouting Program is the assortment of events and activities that the youth members of Scouts BSA plan and participate in. The end goal of the Scouting Program is to prepare scouts to be moral and capable leaders, community members, and citizens in their adult lives.
However, every troop’s Scouting Program is different. While all troops follow the guidance of the BSA, each troop’s program is ultimately determined by its scouts and Scout leaders. In that way, Scouting Programs are pretty democratic!
Who Can Join Scouting?
The BSA offers its program to any youth who is in grades 6 – 12. That’s right, both boys and girls can join! One thing to note is that the troops aren’t co-ed, meaning that there’s often a separate boys and girls troop for each ‘Troop’ location. It’s kinda tricky to describe, but I hope that made sense! 🙂
Scouts BSA is an all-inclusive activity, meaning that a troop should never turn anyone away based on race, income, gender, or sexual orientation. These days, practically everyone is welcome! (However, Scouting can be a bit pricey — check out my article on the Full Financial Costs of Scouting.
What if Someone Who’s Not Yet in 5th Grade Wants to Become a Scout?
Children in 5th grade and below have the opportunity to participate in Cub Scouts. However, while Scouts BSA focuses on leadership and high adventure, Cub Scouts is mainly about exposing kids to fun, educational experiences. For more info, check out this article on the Differences Between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts!
What if Someone Who’s Older Than 18 Wants to be a Part of Scouting?
Individuals over 18 can’t become scouts themselves, but they can still volunteer as an adult leader! Adult leaders are vetted and take a rigorous youth protection course before starting. However, becoming an adult leader provides a great Scouting experience, and is well worth it!
What Does Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts) Do?
Members of Scouts BSA are given countless unique opportunities to explore new interests, participate in outdoor activities, develop their leadership, and be of service to their communities. As someone who was a scout not too long ago, I can 100% say that Scouting is an enriching, life-changing experience! 😀
Below, I’ll briefly be explaining each of the cornerstones of one’s involvement in Scouts BSA. However, if you’re interested in becoming a part of Scouting, I’d highly encourage you to visit one of your local troop’s weekly meetings to ask questions and learn more!
Now, without further ado, here’s a quick explanation of Scouts BSA’s 4 main cornerstones:
One of the most well-known aspects of Scouts BSA is their merit badge program. The practice of earning merit badges helps to encourage scouts to explore various disciplines and participate in unique activities, which then have the potential to become lifelong passions!
There are over 130 merit badges that a member of Scouts BSA can earn. Merit badge topics range from outdoor activities like hiking and camping, to specialized industries like aviation and dentistry, and even novel hobbies like scuba diving and shotgun shooting!
To learn more about the process of learning and earning merit badges, you should check out my article on The Value Of Merit Badges And How To Earn Them FAST. In it, I’ll even provide you with a few more examples of the different, ultra-interesting merit badges that are out there!
A love for the outdoors is practically synonymous with Scouting! In fact, the founder of Scouting (Lord Robert Baden Powell) expressed that, through Scouting, he wanted boys to experience the outdoors and learn valuable frontiersman survival skills.
Throughout their Scouting careers, scouts have numerous opportunities to go on hikes, campouts, and outdoor adventures (like canoeing, rock climbing, snorkeling, etc). Scouts also practice skills like knot tying and orienteering, and learn practical skills like cooking and environmental stewarship!
If you’re looking for an extracurricular that will help you to stand out and succeed in the ‘real world,’ leadership experiences are another way that Scouting helps young people to stand ahead of the pack!
Each troop has a wide range of available positions, from Quartermasters who keep track of equipment, to Scribes who help organize meetings and keep records, to the Senior Patrol Leader, who acts as the primary leader for the entire Troop.
I’d recommend checking out my article explaining Every Troop Leadership Position if you’re interested in learning more about the wide range of troop positions that are out there!
Scouts are required to hold positions of leadership for a certain amount of time in order to advance in rank, thereby encouraging them to practice leading. I’d attribute most of the leadership skills I have today to what I learned in Scouting and National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT)! 🙂
Service is one of the main components of Scouting, and for good reason. By teaching future generations to serve their communities and act as good citizens, we can help make our world a better place for everyone! There’s even a Motto that Scouts are expected to follow: “Do a Good Turn Daily.”
Throughout their Scouting careers, scouts have many opportunities to participate in various types of community service. If they choose to go for their Eagle rank, they’re even challenged to plan, develop, and give leadership to others in their own massive Eagle Scout service project!
How Is Scouting Run?
Before we close out this article, I wanted to give you a brief overview of how Scouting is organized: from scouts, to troops, to communities, and even to a national level. While you’ll likely not be using knowledge of Scouting’s structure on a regular basis, it’s important to know an quick to learn!
First, here’s a handy flow chart showing the hierarchy of how Scouting is organized (ranked from the highest level to the lowest):
During their Scouting careers, most scouts will mainly only interact with their troops. Each troop usually has a chartered organization (such as a church or a school) that supports the troop in providing them with meeting places and resources.
Troops report to their local districts and councils when it comes to verifying completed merit badges and rank advancement. On occasion, a troop may interact with the National Level when it comes to approving Eagle Rank Applications and implementing changes made to the Scouting program.
Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into what Scouting has to offer and how it’s run. If you’re on the fence about joining Scouting, I’d highly encourage you to check out your local troop to learn more. Most troops even allow you to participate in activities before signing up to see if it’s the right fit! 🙂
Also, if you’d like a more detailed glimpse into what Scouting has to offer, you can check out the BSA’s promotional video (3:00) below:
As an Eagle Scout who’s gained so much from my time in Scouting, I can say with 100% certainty that my time in Scouts BSA changed my life for the better. I hope Scouting can improve your life, or the life of one of your loved ones too, and wish you all the best on your Scouting journey! 😀