How it works

Open to everyone

Despite the name, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) programs are open to all youth, boys and girls, from Kindergarten to age 18.

  • Youth in grades K through 5 are in Cub Scouts. Cub Scout units are called Packs, and typically have 30 - 70 youth. Within a Pack, the scouts are separated by age into sub-units called Dens. Most Cub Scout activities happen in the Den, ensuring that they are appropriate for that age. All Packs are open to all boys of the right age, some Packs are also open to girls. In West Hartford, most Packs are sponsored by an elementary school's Parent-Teacher Organization, but they are open to students of all schools, not just the sponsoring one.

  • Youth in grades 6 through 12 are in Scouts BSA. This used to be called 'Boy Scouts', but it is now open to girls too. Scout BSA units are called Troops, and like Packs, they typically have 30 - 70 youth members broken into mixed-age sub-units called Patrols. Unlike Packs, Troops are single-gender-- meaning that some Troops are for boys and other Troops are for girls. (There is currently only one Troop for girls in West Hartford: Troop 1163.) West Hartford Troops are sponsored by local churches, but they are not denominational organizations: you do not need to be a member of that church (or religion) to join.

When your child joins BSA, they are joining a Pack or Troop. They will be working with the adult leaders of that unit, camping with that unit, and doing activities with the other scouts of that unit. It's important, therefore, to visit the units with your child and find the one that best fits them!

Activities and advancement

In BSA programs, all scouts have a rank and are working to earn their next one. Cub Scouts ranks are age-specific and named after animals. So a kindergartener will be working toward their 'Lion' rank (the rank for kindergarteners), and fourth graders will be working toward their Bear rank.

In Scouts BSA, the youth work on a series of ranks that are unconnected to age or grade, but usually take 6-8 years to complete (with the Eagle Badge).

All ranks, whether Cub Scout or Scout BSA, require that the participant engage in a wide range of activities and skills. These will include:

  • Civic engagement (learning about the community and helping improve it through service projects),

  • Outdoor skills (hiking, camping, swimming, etc.), and

  • Practical life skills (using tools, personal finance, health and fitness, etc.)

To earn their rank and fulfill their rank requirements, the participants will engage in activities with their units. In Cub Scouts, participants belong to single-grade Dens and are led through the rank activities by the adult leader (see below). In Scouts BSA, units provide opportunities for participants to achieve requirements through classes and activities. In both cases, these activities will include camping trips, visiting local sights, meeting/interviewing experts in a field, demonstrating skills, and so on.

(In all cases, accommodations are available for participants with disabilities.)

Leadership: youth and adult

All BSA programs are overseen by adult volunteers, but their role changes as participants grow older. In Cub Scouts, all the leaders are adult volunteers. These will include the Cubmasters, who oversee Pack-wide activities, and Den Leaders, who oversee Dens.

In Scouts BSA, on the other hand, adult volunteers (called Scoutmasters) are present, but the goal is for the youth to take on the bulk of leadership positions. Troop activities are lead by the Senior Patrol Leader and their assistants, all of whom are older youth who are ready to take on leadership. This principle of 'youth leadership' continues down to the Patrol level, who are led by other senior participants called Patrol Leaders. All of this is overseen by the Scoutmasters, of course, but the goal of Scouts BSA is to develop participants into leaders by allowing them to exercise day-to-day leadership over the activities.

(Both Cub Scout and Scout BSA units have an additional set of leaders called the units Committee, who don't directly lead the youth participants, but do oversee finances, insurance issues, yearly planning, and other administrative tasks.)

Having said all this, we wish to emphasize that Scout BSA programs require the involvement of all parents/guardians. While units always need more Cubmasters, Den Leaders, Scoutmasters, and Committee members, they also need adults to teach skills and supervise activities. To a large degree, BSA programs are family programs, not youth programs, and all families are asked to contribute to the unit as they can.

Next steps