For over a century two organizations have been enriching the lives of children, giving them a code of ethics to abide by, teaching leadership, respect and skills they will use in adulthood. Most likely you or someone in your family has been, or currently is, a member of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts of America.
Currently there are over 2.4 million Boy Scouts and 1.9 million Girl Scouts in the US. In Arizona, there are four main councils that serve the northern and southern parts of our state. In Phoenix, the main council for Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is the Grand Canyon Council and in Tucson it is the BSA-Catalina Council. For Girl Scouts of America (GSA), the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council serves the Phoenix and northern area and the Southern Arizona Council serves the lower portion of the state.
The Beginning of Scouting
General Robert Baden-Powell organized the first Boy Scout troop in 1908 in England shortly after he published a handbook titled “Scouting for Boys.” The handbook taught boys about camping, boating, lifesaving, patriotism and camaraderie. In 1910, W. D. Boyce founded the Boy Scouts of America, and in 1912 Juliette Gordon-Low founded the Girl Scouts of America–just a month after Arizona became a state. Both the BSA and GSA used guidelines from Baden-Powell to begin their organizations. Both organizations had meetings and earned badges.
In the early days of scouting, boys earned badges for camping, fire building, knot tying, hiking, fishing and woodworking. Girls earned their badges for learning to be a child nurse, cook, home nurse, dressmaker, homemaker and laundress. In the early days of scouting, boys were taught to be survivors while girls were taught more domestic things. Things changed in scouting after women earned the right to vote, and as time and technology moved forward. Some current badges for boys are Astronomy, Automotive Maintenance, Crime Prevention, Geocaching, Journalism, Pottery, Robotics and Theater. Current badges girls can earn are Inventor, Detective, Product Designer, Business Owner, Digital Movie Maker, Entrepreneur, Website Designer and Trailblazing.
Ages, Levels and Ceremonies
Both the BSA and GSA start children off at an early age and scouting continues through high school. Scouting begins for boys as a Cub Scout. The BSA just added a new level called Lion, and now boys as young as kindergarten can become Cub Scouts. Rob Richey, Field Director for BSA-Grand Canyon Council says the Lion program is a pilot program that has been running for about four years in other councils and started this year in Arizona.
“Our council has 44 packs that are running the Lion program, and it has received a very good response,” Richey says. He explains the program is designed as an introduction to scouting. Lions only meet twice a month—they learn about the Cub Scout sign, helping others and staying healthy. Visit www.scouting.org/lion for more information.
Boys in grades 1–5 become Tiger, Wolf, Bear and Webelos Scouts. They then move to Boy Scouts (ages 11–18). The highest rank in BSA is Eagle Scout.
Girls start as a Daisy (grades K–1) and move up to Brownie (grades 2–3), Junior (grades 4–5), Cadette (grades 6–8), Senior (grades 9–10) and finish as an Ambassador (grades 11–12).
With both boys and girls, there are certain awards and badges they can earn at each level for girls, and each rank for boys. When they promote, it is called bridging and there are ceremonies and celebrations to go along with their accomplishments. In Girl Scouts, once a girl has been a Brownie and earned her Brownie wings, the wings will stay on her uniform throughout the rest of her scouting career. The highest rank a Cub Scout can earn is the “Arrow of Light” award. Once this is earned it will move onto their Boy Scout uniform.
Uniforms, Badges and Awards
Lion Scouts wear a T-shirt and ball cap. The Cub Scout uniform is a blue button down shirt and blue cargo pants. The color of the neckerchief they wear changes with levels. The Tiger Cub neckerchief is orange and navy, a Wolf Cub has a yellow and navy neckerchief, Bear Cubs have a light blue and navy neckerchief and Webelos wear a special multicolored neckerchief. At the Boy Scout level scouts wear a khaki shirt, green cargo pants and have various colors of neckerchiefs. This is the same uniform they wear as an Eagle Scout.
Girl Scouts wear a sash or vest
The Daisy vest or tunic is bright blue. The girls do not earn badges at this level—they earn petals to complete a daisy on the front of their vest or tunic. (Daisy was the nickname of Gordon-Low, the founder of GSA). A Brownie wears a brown vest or sash, Juniors wear green, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors wear khaki.
Scouts in both BSA and GSA earn badges and earn highest awards. For girls there are badges at each level, and starting at the Brownie level, girls complete journeys. If girls complete all three journeys at their level, they receive their Summit Award. The highest award at the Junior level is bronze and at the Cadette level is silver. Boys must earn merit badges and there are tenure requirements at each rank in order for the scout to move up. Once a Webelos earns his “Arrow of Light” award, he is eligible to move up to the Boy Scout rank. The highest rank in Boy Scouts is the Eagle Scout. Some boys have achieved this rank while in middle school, but most achieve it during high school.
During the last two years of high school a girl can earn her Gold Award. This is the highest award a girl can earn in scouting like the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award. Many colleges will offer these top scouts a scholarship, or if they join the military they will go in at a higher rank.
Unique Programs in the Organizations
The BSA Catalina Council is one of 17 councils piloting a new project called STEM Scouts. “This is an exciting program that is starting to grow,” says Ken Tucker, Scout Executive for the BSA Catalina Council. “It’s getting really good reviews from educators.” STEM Scouts is coed for kids in grades 3–12. “Anyone can join–95 percent of kids participating were not Boy or Girl Scouts previous to this program,” Tucker says.
STEM Scouts meet weekly, wear a T-shirt instead of a uniform, and recite the Boy Scout Oath and Law. They work in labs, not troops or packs. Elementary age kids work in a series of four-week modules while the middle and high school kids work in a series of six-week modules. They work on various fun projects to learn more about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and exciting careers they can venture into in the future.
“Recruitment for Boy Scouts this year has been really strong,” Tucker says. “STEM Scouts is really a neat program and helps us reach out to more kids and get them involved in scouting.” Kids interested in joining the STEM Scouts can go to www.stemscouts.org for more information.
Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) was founded in Arizona in 1994. This is a program for girls ages 5–18 who have a mother incarcerated. The program enables them to participate with their mother in Girl Scouts. The girls have regular troop meetings but also get to visit with their mothers as a troop twice a month to work on Girl Scout badges and awards. Leanne Murphy, Program Manager with the Social Impact Program of GSA Cactus-Pine Council, states that more than 100 girls go through the program each year. “The program is positive and allows the girls and their mothers to have honest conversations and stay connected. It makes it easier for the girls and moms to adjust when the mom is released,” Murphy says.
Girls who participate in GSBB work on traditional badges and journeys, sell cookies and go camping with their community troop. The excitement for them comes when they are transported to the prison to have a physical visit with their mother. “There are restrictions of what they (girls) can bring into the prison. But unlike a regular visit where you cannot touch the inmate, these girls are allowed to hug their moms and sit on their laps if they want,” Murphy says. Each council that has a GSBB program pays for the transportation to the prison. The funding comes from grants and donations. Both boys and girls do fundraising.
The boys sell popcorn and the girls sell cookies each year to raise money for their troop and their council. There are prizes that scouts can earn by the amount of popcorn or cookies they sell, and they earn money to go to summer camps. The Girl Scout cookie program is the largest girl-led business in the world! While selling cookies, Girl Scouts learn five skills–Goal Setting, Decision Making, Money Management, People Skills and Business Ethics. There are also cookie badges and pins they can earn.
Both BSA and GSA rely heavily on parent participation. Adult volunteers are always needed to be leaders and co-leaders. Call your local BSA or GSA council today so that you can sign up to be a leader or volunteer.
BSA Grand Canyon Council, 602-955-7747
GSA Cactus-Pine Council, 602-452-7000
BSA Catalina Council, 520-750-0385
GSA Southern Arizona Council, 520-327-2288
Famous Boy Scouts
John F. Kennedy—Former U.S.
Walter Cronkite—News Reporter
Martin Luther King Jr.-Civil Rights Activist
Henry “Hank” Aaron—Hall of Fame Baseball Player
George Strait—Country Music Singer
Nolan Ryan—Hall of Fame Baseball Pitcher
George W. Bush & Bill Clinton—Former U.S. Presidents
Neil Armstrong—Astronaut, first man on the moon
Willie Banks—Olympic Track Star
Gerald Ford—Former U.S. President
Mike Rowe—Television Star
Steven Spielberg—Movie director of E.T. and more. (He was a scout in AZ)
Famous Girl Scouts
Dr. Sally Ride—Astronaut, first American woman in space
Venus & Serena Williams—Professional tennis players
Hillary Clinton—-67th Secretary of State and former first lady
Janet Reno—Former U.S. Attorney General
Chelsea Clinton—Daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton (42nd President)