Update on Boy Scout program changes

411A bit over a year ago, we wrote about the five-year BSA 4-1-1 Strategic Plan that looked at all aspects of the Boy Scouts of America and provided ways for volunteers and professionals to provide input on the future of our programs and processes. Several of the changes proposed in the plan have been put into place, and more details are coming forth about other changes to the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs over the next couple years.

Quite a bit of market research has gone into finding out just what Scouts and families expect and need from our programs. A blue-ribbon panel of volunteers from around the nation, along with representatives from boards such as the religious relationships committee and the aquatics task force, considered dozens of aspects of Scouting, from finance to camping, from membership to high adventure. The findings were summarized in a report back in 2012, and now the changes are getting closer. Here’s a look at changes to the Boy Scout program announced this past week:

  • A Scout is Helpful – One of the cornerstone values of our movement is that a Scout helps other people at all times. This value is being incorporated into our rank requirements. Currently, a minimum of one hour of service is required for Second Class, and six hours for Star and Life (plus, of course, the Eagle Scout leadership service project for that rank). Starting in 2015, some amount of service to others will be a requirement for all ranks. Additionally, a conservation project will be required for Life.
  • Physically strong – There are the fitness tests for Tenderfoot, swimming for Second and First Class and some hiking, but beyond that, there isn’t much in the requirements to underscore the expectation that a Scout should be active physically. A physical fitness element will be added to the Second Class and First Class requirements as well, and will make it more relevant for troops to incorporate the ScoutStrong initiative. Healthy eating habits will also be incorporated into the rank requirements.
  • Be prepared – Weather hazards training exists and is required for adult leaders, but there’s no such specific requirement for youth. Weather safety and risk assessment will become part of the rank requirements, along with ways to mitigate risk in Scouting activities.
  • A Scout is Reverent – Not much is made of duty to God past the requirements for the Bear rank in Cub Scouts. It’s been an expectation all along, and it continues to be an expectation that a Scout practices his faith. With the coming changes, a Scout’s duty to God is evaluated under the umbrella of “Scout spirit”.
  • Considerate in the outdoors – Nearly all troops recite the Outdoor Code as part of their weekly meetings. Certainly we observe the four Cs on every outing, and recognition for outdoor ethics and a position of responsibility for Leave No Trace already exist. To emphasize the importance of stewardship to our environment, look for Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly to become part of rank requirements.
  • Miscellaneous changes such as some reordering of the various rank requirements will be made, and Scout becomes an official rank rather than just an indication that the joining requirements were satisfied. Not changing are the rest of the ranks, the ability to work on Tenderfoot through First Class requirements concurrently, and the merit badge program and its relationship to higher ranks.

Exact details on these changes are still to come, and you won’t be rushing out to find new materials just yet; these changes don’t go into effect until January 2016, and boys who join on or after then must use the new requirements. There is a one-year permissive period for then-current Scouts, who may elect to use the old or new requirements, and the new requirements must be used by all Scouts starting in 2017. The revised Scout Handbook is expected to be released in January 2016, along with the annual revision to Boy Scout Requirements. Adult leader training kicks off during the summer 2015 Philmont Training Center conferences and should be available for implementation by council-level training teams that fall.

Many changes are coming to the Cub Scout program too – exciting changes to make the program more fun for the boys as well as for the leaders (really!). I’ll discuss them in next week’s article.


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