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What is a Scout?


What Is Boy Scouting?

Purpose of the BSA

The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated to provide a program for community organizations that offers effective character, citizenship, and personal fitness training for youth.

Specifically, the BSA endeavors to develop American citizens who are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit; have a high degree of self-reliance as evidenced in such qualities as initiative, courage, and resourcefulness; have personal values based on religious concepts; have the desire and skills to help others; understand the principles of the American social, economic, and governmental systems; are knowledgeable about and take pride in their American heritage and understand our nation¹s role in the world; have a keen respect for the basic rights of all people; and are prepared to participate in and give leadership to American society.

Boy Scout Program Membership

Boy Scouting, one of the traditional membership divisions of the BSA, is available to boys who have earned the Arrow of Light Award or have completed the fifth grade, or who are 11 through 17 years old. The program achieves the BSA¹s objectives of developing character, citizenship, and personal fitness qualities among youth by focusing on a vigorous program of outdoor activities.

Currently, the Boy Scout program membership is:*

  • 1,003,691 Boy Scouts/Varsity Scouts
  • 528,475 Adult Volunteers
  • 52,582 Troops/Teams

*As of December 31, 2000


Volunteer Scouters

Thousands of volunteer leaders, both men and women, are involved in the Boy Scouting program. They serve in a variety of jobs—everything from unit leaders to chairmen of troop committees, committee members, merit badge counselors, and chartered organization representatives.

Like other phases of the program, Boy Scouting is made available to community organizations having similar interests and goals. Chartered organizations include professional organizations; governmental bodies; and religious, educational, civic, fraternal, business, labor, and citizens' groups. Each organization appoints one of its members as the chartered organization representative. The organization is responsible for leadership, the meeting place, and support for troop activities.

Who Pays for It?

Several groups are responsible for supporting Boy Scouting: the boy and his parents, the troop, the chartered organization, and the community. Boys are encouraged to earn money whenever possible to pay their own expenses, and they also contribute dues to their troop treasuries to ay for budgeted items. Troops obtain additional income by working on approved money-earning projects. The community, including parents, supports Scouting through the United Way, Friends of Scouting campaigns, bequests, and special contributions to the BSA local council. This income provides leadership training, outdoor programs, council service centers and other facilities, and professional service for units.

Aims and Methods of the Scouting Program

The Scouting program has three specific objectives, commonly referred to as the "Aims of Scouting." They are character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness.

The methods by which the aims are achieved are listed below in random order to emphasize the equal importance of each.


The ideals of Boy Scouting are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Boy Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.


The patrol method gives Boy Scouts an experience in group living and participating citizenship. It places responsibility on young shoulders and teaches boys how to accept it. The patrol method allows Scouts to interact in small groups where members can easily relate to each other. These small groups determine troop activities through elected representatives.

Outdoor Programs.

Boy Scouting is designed to take place outdoors. It is in the outdoor setting that Scouts share responsibilities and learn to live with one another. In the outdoors the skills and activities practiced at troop meetings come alive with purpose. Being close to nature helps Boy Scouts gain an appreciation for the beauty of the world around us. The outdoors is the laboratory in which Boy Scouts learn ecology and practice conservation of nature's resources.


Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.

Associations With Adults.

Boys 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 who is willing to listen to boys, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives.

Personal Growth.

As Boy 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 Boy Scouting. Boys 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 Boy Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting's aims.

Leadership Development.

The Boy Scout program encourages boys to learn and practice leadership skills. Every Boy Scout has the opportunity to participate in both shared and total leadership situations. Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership role of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.


The uniform makes the Boy Scout troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Boy Scouting is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Boy Scout's commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Boy Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals. The uniform is practical attire for Boy Scout activities and provides a way for Boy Scouts to wear the badges that show what they have accomplished.

Outdoor Activities

Local councils operate and maintain Scout camps. The National Council operates high-adventure areas at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the Northern Tier National High Adventure Program in Minnesota and Canada, and the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in the Florida Keys. About 70 councils also operate high-adventure programs.

The BSA conducts a national Scout jamboree every four years and participates in world Scout jamborees (also held at four-year intervals). Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, was the site of the 1997 National Scout Jamboree.

The Beginning of Scouting

Scouting, as known to millions of youth and adults, evolved during the early 1900s through the efforts of several men dedicated to bettering youth. These pioneers of the program conceived outdoor activities that developed skills in young boys and gave them a sense of enjoyment, fellowship, and a code of conduct for everyday living.

In this country and abroad at the turn of the century, it was thought that children needed certain kinds of education that the schools couldn't or didn't provide. This led to the formation of a variety of youth groups, many with the word "Scout" in their names. For example, Ernest Thompson Seton, an American naturalist, artist, writer, and lecturer, originated a group called the Woodcraft Indians and in 1902 wrote a guidebook for boys in his organization called the Birch Bark Roll. Meanwhile in Britain, Robert Baden-Powell, after returning to his country a hero following military service in Africa, found boys reading the manual he had written for his regiment on stalking and survival in the wild. Gathering ideas from Seton, America's Daniel Carter Beard, and other Scoutcraft experts, Baden-Powell rewrote his manual as a nonmilitary skill book, which he titled Scouting for Boys. The book rapidly gained a wide readership in England and soon became popular in the United States. In 1907, when Baden-Powell held the first campout for Scouts on Brownsea Island off the coast of England, troops were spontaneously springing up in America.

William D. Boyce, a Chicago publisher, incorporated the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 after meeting with Baden-Powell. (Boyce was inspired to meet with the British founder by an unknown Scout who led him out of a dense London fog and refused to take a tip for doing a Good Turn.) Immediately after its incorporation, the BSA was assisted by officers of the YMCA in organizing a task force to help community organizations start and maintain a high-quality Scouting program. Those efforts climaxed in the organization of the nation's first Scout camp at Lake George, New York, directed by Ernest Thompson Seton. Beard, who had established another youth group, the Sons of Daniel Boone (which he later merged with the BSA), provided assistance. Also on hand for this historic event was James E. West, a lawyer and an advocate of children's rights, who later would become the first professional Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. Seton became the first volunteer national Chief Scout, and Beard, the first national Scout Commissioner.


The BSA publishes the Boy Scout Handbook (more than 37 million copies of which have been printed); the Junior Leader Handbook, which offers information relevant to boy leadership; the Scoutmaster Handbook; more than 100 merit badge pamphlets dealing with hobbies, vocations, and advanced Scoutcraft; and program features and various kinds of training, administrative, and organizational manuals for adult volunteer leaders and Boy Scouts. In a ddition, the BSA publishes Boys' Life magazine, the national magazine for all boys (magazine circulation is more than 1.3 million) and Scouting magazine for volunteers, which has a circulation of 900,000.


Conservation activities supplement the program of Boy Scout advancement, summer camp, and outdoor activities and teaches young people to better understand their interdependence with the environment.

Source: Officail BSA Homepage

Scouting is...

Education for Life

Scouting complements the school and the family, filling needs not met by either. Scouting develops self-knowledge and the need to explore, to discover, and to want to know. Scouts discover the world beyond the classroom, tapping the skills of others to learn and to become well-rounded people.

Fun with a Purpose

Through recreation, Scouting achieves its purpose of helping young people develop physically, intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Scouting is all about building confidence and self-esteem, learning important life skills and leadership skills, team building, outdoor adventure, education, and fun! Scouts learn how to make good choices and to take responsibility for their actions so that they are prepared for their adult life as independent persons.

A Worldwide Movement

There are Scout associations and branches in more than 216 countries and territories. Scouting has never stopped growing since its founding in 1907. Today there are more than 25 million Scouts. Over 300 million people have been members in the more than 90 years since Scouting was founded. While Scouting is adapted to local needs and culture, its Purpose, Principles, and Method are the same world wide.

Open to All

Scouting is open to all without distinction of origin, race, class, or creed, provided that the person voluntarily adheres to Scouting's Principles.

A Code of Living

Scouting's Principles describe a simple code of living to which all Scouts make a personal commitment through the Scout Promise and Law. Scouting helps Scouts learn how to carry out their commitment in everyday life. This approach to life has three dimensions:

  • A Spiritual Dimension - A commitment to seek the spiritual value of life beyond the material world.
  • A Social Dimension - Participating in the development of society, and respecting the dignity of others and the integrity of the natural world. Promoting local, national, and international peace, understanding, and cooperation.
  • A Personal Dimension - Developing a sense of personal responsibility and stimulating the desire for responsible self-expression.

The Scout Method

The Elements

Scouting's purpose is achieved by the use of the Scout Method, which is a system of progressive self-education through:

  • A Promise and Law - Making a personal commitment.
  • Learning by doing - Active participation with others. Opportunities for new experiences.
  • Membership of small groups - In patrols to develop leadership, group skills, and individual responsibility.
  • Progressive and stimulating programs - Progressive activities based on the interests of young people. Activities in contact with nature, a rich learning environment where simplicity, creativity, and discovery come together to provide adventure and challenge.

Adapted from ScoutDocs: What is scouting?.

Baden-Powell of Gilwell * Chief Scout of the World


The name Baden-Powell is known and respected throughout the world as that of a man who, in his 83 years, devoted himself to the service of his country and his fellow men in two separate and complete lives, one as a soldier fighting for his country, and the other as a worker for peace through the brotherhood of the Scout Movement.

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell was born at 6 Stanhope Street (now 11 Stanhope Terrace), Paddington, London on February 22, 1857. He was the sixth son and the eighth of ten children of the Reverend Baden-Powell, a Professor at Oxford University. The names Robert Stephenson were those of his Godfather, the son of George Stephenson, the railway pioneer.

His father died when B.-P. was only three years old and the family were left none too well off. B.-P. was given his first lessons by his mother and later attended Rose Hill School, Tunbridge Wells, where he gained a scholarship for admittance to Charterhouse School. Charterhouse School was in London when B.-P. first attended but whilst he was there it moved to Godalming, Surrey, a factor which had great influence in his later life. He was always eager to learn new skills. He played the piano and fiddle. He acted - and acted the clown too at times. He practised bricklaying, and it was whilst a scholar at Charter house that he began to exploit his interest in the arts of Scouting and woodcraft.

Unofficially, in the woods around the school, B.-P. would stalk his Masters as well as catch and cook rabbits, being careful not to let the tell-tale smoke give his position away. His holidays were not wasted either. With his brothers he was always in search of adventure. One holiday they made a yachting expedition around the south coast of England. On another, they traced the Thames to its source by canoe. In all this, Baden-Powell was learning the arts and crafts which were to prove so useful to him professionally. B.-P. was certainly not a 'swot' at school, as his end of term reports revealed. One records: 'Mathematics - has to all intents given up the study', and another:

'French - could do well but has become very lazy, often sleeps in school'. Nevertheless, he gained second place for cavalry in open examination for the Army and was commissioned straight into the 13th Hussars, bypassing the officer training establishments, and subsequently became their Honorary Colonel for 30 years. His Army career was outstanding from the start. With the 13th Hussars he served in India, Afghanistan and South Africa and was mentioned in dispatches for his work in Zululand. There followed three years service in Malta as Assistant Military Secretary and then he went to Ashanti, Africa, to lead the campaign against Prempeh. Success led to his being promoted to command the 5th Dragoon Guards in 1897, at the age of 40. It was to the 5th Dragoon Guards that B.-P. gave his first training in Scouting and awarded soldiers reaching certain standards a badge based on the north point of the compass. Today's Scout Membership badge is very similar.

In 1899 came Mafeking, the most notable episode in his outstanding military career, by which he became a Major-General at the age of only 43. B.-P. became famous and the hero of every boy, although he always minimised his own part and the value of his inspiring leadership. By using boys for responsible jobs during the siege, he learned the good response youth give to a challenge. During the 217 day siege, B.-P.'s book Aids to Scouting was published and reached a far wider readership than the military one for which it was intended. Following Mafeking, B.-P. was given the task of organising the South African Constabulary and it was not until 1903 that he returned to England as Inspector General of Cavalry and found that his book, Aids to Scouting'was being used by youth leaders and teachers all over the country. He spoke at meetings and rallies and whilst at a Boys' Brigade gathering he was asked by its Founder, Sir William Smith, to work out a scheme for giving greater variety in the training of boys in good citizenship.

The Beginnings of the Movement

B.-P. set to work rewriting Aids to Scouting, this time for a younger readership. In 1907 he held an experimental camp on Brownsea Island, Poole, Dorset, to try out his ideas. He brought together 22 boys, some from public schools and some from working class homes, and put them into camp under his leadership. The whole world now knows the results of that camp.

Scouting for Boys'was published in 1908 in six fortnightly parts at 4d a copy. Sales of the book were tremendous. Boys formed themselves into Scout Patrols to try out ideas. What had been intended as a training aid for existing organisations became the handbook of a new and, ultimately worldwide Movement. B.-P.'s great understanding of boys obviously touched something fundamental in the youth of this and other countries.

'Scouting for Boys' has since been translated into many different languages and dialects.

Without fuss, without ceremony and completely spontaneously, boys began to form Scout Troops all over the country. In September 1908, B.-P. had set up an office to deal with the large number of enquiries which were pouring in concerning the Movement.

There is no need to describe the way in which Scouting spread throughout the British Commonwealth and to other countries until it was established in practically all parts of the free world. Even those countries where Scouting as we know it is not allowed to exist readily, admit that they used its methods for their own youth training.

As Inspector-General of Cavalry, B.-P. considered that he had reached the pinnacle of his career. The baton of Field Marshal was within his grasp but he retired from the Army in 1910 at the age of 53, on the advice of His Majesty King Edward VII, who suggested that he would do more valuable service for his country within the Boy Scout Movement (now Scout Movement) than anyone could hope to do as a soldier!

So all his enthusiasm and energy was now directed to the development of Scouting and its sister Movement, Guiding. He travelled to all parts of the world, wherever he was most needed, to encourage their growth and give them the inspiration that he alone could give.

In 1912, he married Olave Soames who was his constant help and companion in all this work and by whom he had three children (Peter, Heather and Betty). Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, until she died in 1977, was known throughout the world as World Chief Guide.

Chief Scout of the World

The first international Scout Jamboree took place at Olympia, London in 1920. At its closing scene, B.-P. was unanimously acclaimed as Chief Scout of the World. Successive international gatherings, whether of Scouts or Rovers (now called Venture Scouts) or of Scouters, proved that this was not an honorary title, but that he was truly regarded by them all as their Chief. The shouts that heralded his arrival, and the silence that fell when he raised his hand, proved beyond any doubt that he had captured the hearts and imaginations of his followers in whatever country they owed allegiance.

At the 3rd World Jamboree, held in Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the publication of Scouting for Boys, the Prince of Wales announced that B.-P. had been created a Peer. He took the title of Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell - Gilwell Park being the International Training Centre for Scout Leaders.

Scouting was not B.-P.'s only interest, for excelled at pig-sticking and fishing, and favoured polo and big game hunting. He was also a very good black & white and watercolour artist and took an interest in cinephotography and sculpture. In 1907, he exhibited a bust of John Smith, the colonial pioneer, at the Royal Academy.

B.-P. wrote no less than 32 books, the earning from which helped to pay for his Scouting travels. As with all his successors, he received no salary as Chief Scout. He received honorary degrees from Edinburgh, Toronto, Montreal, Oxford, Liverpool and Cambridge Universities. He also received Freedoms of the cities of London, Guildford,

Newcastle-on-Tyne, Bangor, Cardiff, Hawick, Kingston-on- Thames, Poole, Blandford, Canterbury and Pontefract, and of other cities in various parts of the world. In addition, 28 Foreign Orders and decorations and 19 Foreign Scout Awards were bestowed upon him. Every minute of B.-P.'s life was 'sixty seconds worth of distance run'. Each new adventure was the subject for a book. Every happy incident or thought, every fine landscape might be the subject for a sketch.

In 1938, suffering from ill-health, B.-P. returned to Africa, which had meant so much in his life, to live in semi-retirement in Nyeri, Kenya. Even here he found it difficult to curb his energies - he still produced many books and sketches.

On January 8, 1941, Baden-Powell died. He was 83 years of age. He is buried in a simple grave at Nyeri within sight of Mount Kenya. On his headstone are the words, 'Robert Baden-Powell, Chief Scout of the World' surmounted by the Boy Scout and Girl Guide Badges. His memory remains for all time in the hearts of millions of men and women, boys and girls.

It is up to those who are, or have been, Scouts or Guides to see that the two Movements he so firmly established continue for all time as living memorials to their Founder.

Baden-Powell's Last Message

Towards the end of his life, although still in comparatively good health, he prepared a farewell message to his Scouts for publication after his death. It read:


Dear Scouts, If you have ever seen the play 'Peter Pan' you will remember how the pirate chief was always making his dying speech because he was afraid that possible, when the time came for him to die, he might not have time to get it off his chest. It is much the same with me, and so, although I am not at this moment dying, I shall be doing so one of these days and I want to send you a parting word of goodbye.
Remember, it is the last time you will ever hear from me, so think it over. I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too.
I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man.
Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one.
But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. 'Be Prepared' in this way, to live happy and to die happy - stick to your Scout Promise always - even after you have ceased to be a boy - and God help you to do it.

Your friend,


Source: Scout History and Traditions.

Scout Oath

On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country

and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law

A scout is...
and Reverent.





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