“We want more young men and young women to become Scoutmasters,” Baden-Powell said in 1914.
Although it may seem like a benign comment, it actually points to a topic that people in the Scouting community have debated for decades– girls in Scouting.
Baden-Powell was more open-minded about the concept of girls in Scouting than many of us would give him credit for. He thought both young men and young women could undergo similar training; they would teach their constituencies related skills, becoming leaders in their own areas. And, he believed if there was an adventure that a patrol of boys would want to take up, a patrol of girls would also like to take up that same adventure.
Venturing Crew 999 did exactly that.
An all-girls Crew from Plano, TX, they headed to Sea Base St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands for a week of High Adventure. The five young women, joined by three female adult leaders, sailed to beautiful beaches where they hiked, swam, snorkeled and toured historic sites. As the week progressed, the girls formed a tightly-knit team, bonded by the close quarters of the ship and their shared experiences.
The trip was one of many Caribbean adventures offered by the Florida Sea Base, one of the BSA’s four national high-adventure bases. Officially called the Sea Base St. Thomas Adventure, the trip is a seven-day, six-night journey around the islands of St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. “It’s a ton of fun, but it’s no pleasure cruise,” says Bryan on Scouting. The girls, like all Venture crews who attend High Adventure, were expected to work. This included cooking meals and caring for the boat. They also spent time earning a religious emblem and the Snorkeling BSA Award.
Throughout their adventure, the girls spent time doing all the fun activities you would find at a Sea-Base High Adventure “We got to learn all about each other through sailing, snorkeling and getting only slightly lost while hiking,” Laura Worthen, a Crew member, said. “I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.” They also spent time learning local history and exploring the Island in ways not many people get the opportunity to.
The most amazing part of this story, however, is that Venturing allows girls to take advantage of wonderful BSA programs, develop new skills, and get recognition for their accomplishments. Not only do these kinds of experiences leave youth with great memories, they help develop them into the leaders we need.
Commenting on the opportunities Venturing provides for girls, one dad said “My daughter made the leap…to Venturing on her 14th birthday and 12 days later, was on her first Philmont trek. The three girls from that trek were all eventual camp staff members at our local camp and ended up over the years holding camp leadership positions that previously were always male, including program director. Had they been able, I have no doubt all three would be Eagle scouts today. It’s all about the opportunities. Not every girl will take advantage of them, but some most certainly will.”
The co-ed nature of Venturing is something that many people enjoy. Another father fondly remembers his time in a co-ed Explorer Post. He remarked that his three girls go with their brother to many Cub Scout events. “I can imagine that they’ll end up in a Venture crew when they’re older,” he said.
Like the girls of Venturing Crew 999, many girls enjoy the accomplishments and the adventures they experience while being part of the Boy Scouts of America. Some people want to see girls being recognized for those achievements just like the boys of the BSA are. “It would be amazing to allow girls to take advantage of the wonderful program and get recognition for those rank accomplishments, including Eagle…It shouldn’t be about the club that you are allowed to join, but about recognizing all Scouts’ accomplishments, especially when they have gone above and beyond,” says one parent. This is one side of the growing debate over girls in Scouting.
An important part of this discussion is the BSA’s position on girls in Scouting. Most of us within Scouting know that at 14, girls can join Venturing crews along with the boys. Currently, though, we don’t really know where Scouting is going to go in terms of including girls more fully in the program. The BSA has not made any statements concerning the future for girls in Scouting.
For now, the real work ahead is making sure girls are welcomed in spirit to be part of what they know and love as the Boy Scout program. This means that girls who love this program as much as we do should be encouraged to be a part of it however they can.
Venturing is a great program that girls can join. Girls can also check out Exploring and Sea Scouts, BSA if they want more of a skill based advancement program, like the ones they have seen their brothers and friends go through.
In the end, Scouting is not about creating testosterone filled, super athletic men. Scouting is to create our future leaders, to be physically fit, mentally awake and morally straight. And that includes the entire family!
Let’s continue the discussion, so share your thoughts below!