The Scout Program
The Scouting program has three aims or purposes: character development, citizenship training, and physical and mental fitness. What makes Scouting unique is that it has eight methods it uses to achieve those aims. Those eight methods define Scouting and show how it is different from other programs.
The ideals of Scouting are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Scout measures herself against these ideals and continually tries to improve.
Patrols are small groups of Scouts who camp together, cook together, play together, and learn together. Patrols are where Scouts learn citizenship at the most basic level. They also take on responsibilities within the patrol, and learn teamwork and leadership. Patrols sort of look like Cub Scout dens, but there is one big difference: Patrols elect their own leaders, and through these patrol leaders, Scouts have a voice in deciding what activities the troop will put on its calendar. Patrols are one component of what we call youth-run, or youth-led, troop.
Scouting is designed to take place outdoors. We camp. We hike. We get dirty. We get up close and personal with bugs and spiders. There's no way around it. Our program is largely built around outdoor activities. So, expect to have more laundry after a campout and to hear some interesting stories about wild things.
Scouting has a system of ranks in which Scouts learn progressively more difficult skills and take on progressively greater responsibilities. The highest of these ranks is Eagle Scout. Becoming an Eagle Scout is an important achievement that your son can be proud of his entire life. But turning out Eagle Scouts is not what the Scouting program is all about. Advancement is probably the most visible of the Scouting methods, and the easiest to understand, but it is only one of eight methods. We strongly encourage advancement, but we never force it—advancement is the Scout's choice, and he sets his own pace. We don't do "lock-step" advancement. And many great Scouts, and great men, never became Eagle Scouts.
Associations With Adults
Scouts learn a great deal by watching how adults conduct themselves. Scout leaders can be positive role models for the members of the troop. In many cases, a Scoutmaster, a merit badge counselor, or one of the troop parents who is willing to listen to scouts, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives. Adult association is also part of what we call a youth-led troop. Adults understand that their role is to create a safe place where scouts can learn and grow and explore and play and take on responsibilities—and fail, and get up and try again. If you were involved with Cub Scouting, this is a very different role that can take some time getting used to.
As Scouts plan their activities and progress toward their goals, they experience personal growth. The Good Turn concept is a major part of the personal growth method of Scouting. Scouts grow as they participate in community service projects and do Good Turns for others. Probably no device is as successful in developing a basis for personal growth as the daily Good Turn. The religious emblems program also is a large part of the personal growth method. Frequent personal conferences with his Scoutmaster help each Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting's aims.
The Scout program encourages scouts to learn and practice leadership skills. Every Scout has the opportunity to lead in some way, whether as part of a team, or as the leader of his patrol or as the senior patrol leader of the troop. Leadership development is another component of the youth-led troop.
Like most sports teams, Scouts wear a uniform. Like most sports teams, we expect our Scouts to wear the uniform when they are doing Scouting, and to wear it properly. It is a symbol of who we are and what we do.