Boy Scouts of America

Here are the basics about the Boy Scouts of America:

  • Boy Scouts of America or BSA, also called Scouting/USA
  • Founded on 8 February 1910, in Washington, DC, by Chicago publisher William Boyce
  • Chartered by the US Congress in 1916 (the Girl Scouts of the USA are the only one other youth program with a Congressional Charter, granted in 1949)
  • Headquarters in Irving, Texas (near Dallas)
  • The BSA is the USA's only Scouting organization recognized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (many countries have several Scouting programs).
  • The BSA is divided into about 300 local Councils.
  • The BSA and its local Councils employ about 4000 full-time professional staff.
  • The BSA is the second largest Scouting organization in the world (the largest is Indonesia).

The BSA has four program divisions, three traditional Scouting programs based on grade or age, plus a fourth classroom-based non-traditional subsidiary:

Cub Scouting Division (boys, grades 1 through 5)

  • Members in grade 1 are called Tiger Cubs.
  • Members in grades 2 and 3 are called Cub Scouts, and work on Wolf rank (grade 2) or Bear rank (grade 3).
  • Members in grades 4 and 5 are called Webelos Scouts, and work on the Webelos rank and the Arrow of Light rank.
  • Webelos Scouts usually graduate into Boy Scouting in about February of grade 5.
  • The overall Cub Scouting program is family-centered, adult-run, and offers very little camping or outdoor activities.
  • Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for certain assistant positions). The leader of the pack is the Cubmaster, and each den is led by an adult Den Leader.
  • The only boy leadership position is Denner, rotated monthly among the den members, which consists mostly of helping the Den Leader and making a den report at the monthly pack meeting.
  • In 2000, Cub Scout youth membership totaled 2 114 420 in 54 394 packs.

Boy Scouting Division (boys, age 11 until 18)

  • Two programs—Boy Scouting and Varsity Scouting
  • Boy Scouting is traditional Scouting for boys age 11 until 18, though a boy can join as early as age 10-1/2 if he has earned the Webelos Arrow of Light.
  • Boy Scout troops offer Venture (high adventure) activities and Varsity (sports-oriented) activities to their older Scouts. Note that Venture Scouting (as part of a troop) and Venturing (see below) are completely separate and unrelated programs.
  • Boy Scouts work on 6 ranks: Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle.
  • The overall Boy Scouting program is mostly boy-run with adults providing guidance and training, and is strongly oriented toward a camping and outdoor program.
  • At about age 14/grade 9, a Boy Scout can choose to remain in the troop, or transfer to a Varsity team, or transfer to a Venturing crew.
  • Varsity Scouting is a separate, optional, non-coed, and little-used program for boys age about 14 until 18 (mostly used by the LDS/Mormon church).
  • Varsity Scouts wear the same uniform as Boy Scouts (with slightly different insignia), and work on the same ranks.
  • Varsity Scouts typically camp like Boy Scouts, and often compete in team sports.
  • Adult leaders in the Boy Scouting Division can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for certain assistant positions). The adult leader of the troop is the Scoutmaster, and the adult leader of the Varsity team is the Coach.
  • The boy leader of the troop is the elected Senior Patrol Leader, and each patrol is led by an elected boy Patrol Leader. The boy leader of the team is the elected Team Captain, and each squad is led by an elected squad leader.
  • In 2000, Boy Scout youth membership totaled 931 508 in 44 648 troops plus 72 183 in 7934 Varsity teams.

Venturing Division (young men and young women, age about 14 until 21)

  • Replaces the former Exploring program
  • Venturing is a new program (fall, 1998), with coed crews focusing on six experience areas: Citizenship, Leadership, Fitness, Social, Outdoor, and Service.
  • Venturing crew "specialty clusters" include: Outdoor, Sports, Arts/Hobbies, Youth Ministry, and Sea Scouting.
  • Sea Scouting (formerly Sea Exploring) is now part of the Venturing program.
  • The former career-awareness Exporing program is now part of Learning for Life.
  • Male Venturers can work on the same ranks as Boy Scouts (technically, they must earn the ranks through First Class as a member of a Boy Scout troop). In addition, all Venturers have their own advancement system, culminating with the Venturing Ranger Award.
  • BSA's Venturing Division is unusual compared to the equivalent programs in most other countries because high-school-aged young men have the option of being a Venturer, or they can remain in a Scout troop or join a Varsity team.
  • There is no BSA program equivalent to the Rover programs available in some countries (for those over age 21).
  • Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for certain assistant positions). The adult leader is called the Venturing Advisor.
  • The key youth leader of a Venturing crew the elected crew President.
  • In 2000, Venturing youth membership totaled 233 858 in 17 684 crews.

Learning for Life

  • BSA subsidiary
  • Two programs—Learning for Life and Exploring
  • Learning for Life is a non-traditional, classroom-based character education program.
  • Exploring is the branch of Learning for Life that focuses on workplace-based and career-oriented interests. Note that what was for many years called "Exploring" is now generally covered in the Venturing program.
  • Goal is to help young people develop skills, positive attitudes, values, and career awareness.
  • In 2000, Learning for Life youth membership totaled 1.6 million.

Names and Numbers

While the Girl Scouts of the USA call all their units troops, the BSA identifies its units by the program they conduct:

  • Cub Scouts belong to a pack, which is divided into several dens (at least one Tiger den, Wolf den, Bear den, first-year Webelos den, and second-year Webelos den). Webelos dens may also choose to call themselves patrols and adopt a patrol name instead of a den number.
  • Boy Scouts belong to a troop, which is divided into several patrols.
  • Varsity Scouts belong to a team, which is divided into several squads.
  • Venturers belong to a crew, and Sea Scouts belong to a ship.
  • Learning for Life participants belong to a group.

Unit identification (pack, troop, etc) is more confusing in the US than in most countries. Outside the US, units usually are part of a Scouting "group". Each group would include one or more program "sections" such as a pack, a troop, and a crew. The group would have a number associated with its town or area (such as the 2nd Brixton Scout Group), and often all group members wear a common neckerchief. In the US, which doesn't use the "group" concept, each pack, troop, etc, is separately numbered, and there is no link to the unit's location. For example, in our town, there is a Pack 14 and a Troop 14, which are unrelated and meet at separate locations. And, since unit numbers are repeated in each of the 300+ local Scout Councils, there could be 300 (or more) Troop 440's in the US. Actually, due to the many Scout Council mergers over the past 25 years (there used to be over 500 Councils), some Councils could have two Troop 440's.