Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts – clearing up the confusion

There’s been a lot of confusion since the Boy Scouts of America announced in May it would begin allowing girls into its younger scouting programs.  Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts have been getting a lot of questions from parents about which kids can join which groups.

For the Smith family from Moon, being a Boy Scout is in the genes.  Dad, Ken Smith, is an Eagle Scout and his grandfather was a scout.  His wife Karen’s great uncle was also a scout.  She and Ken met at Boy Scout camp.  “He was the rifle range instructor, and I was medic for the summer,” she explains.

Karen always tagged along at her brother’s scouting events as a kid, and so did Ken and Karen’s daughter, Erin, who’s 6 years old.  So when she was allowed to officially join Cub Scouts this past summer, it was a dream come true.  “This is a family thing for all of us, so it’s a really nice, unexpected treat for us,” Karen says.

The Cub Scouts now accepts girls, and Erin likes that she gets to do what her older brother, Peter, does.  “Make s’mores.  Set up a tent” is what she says he likes most.

For the Smiths, it’s convenient and makes it easier for them to be part of the same organization.

The Boy Scouts, which is for sixth through twelfth grade, opens to girls this coming February.  Peter, who’s in sixth grade, has been scouting as long as he can remember.  In addition to making good friends, he likes many of the activities. “I like camping. I like shooting the rifles and everything we get to do… archery, making the fires, cooking,”  Peter says.

He also likes that his sister gets to do what he’s been doing in scouting.

Alahna O’Brien, Boy Scouts field director for this area, says, “You really get to see the world in a different picture.”  She says the experiences are vast, “whether it’s community service, cleaning a trail, learning how to shoot at a target the correct way.”

Ken knows the difference it’s made in his own life.  “Self-reliance,” is one character trait it develops.  He says it also helps boys “have a positive view of themselves and their community and how they can help other people and their community as well as themselves.”

While scouting goes back generations, it’s also looking to the future and changing with the times by becoming co-ed.  “We are already in a world where girls want to be just the same as boys, in (the) corporate world, in sports,” O’Brien says.  She adds that the new co-ed scouting provides “the opportunity now to work together in an environment that maybe they can challenge each other.”

To be clear, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are still two completely separate organizations and are not joining together.  Girl Scouts is a single-sex organization for girls only.

Boy Scouts is now co-ed with more than 17,000 members in our region and 6,000 adult leaders.  They will call Boy Scouts “Scouts BSA”, but the overall organization remains Boy Scouts of America.

For more information on a troop near you, go to the Laurel Highlands Council website:

Read more about the Girl Scouts “Safe supportive space”: