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Boy Scouting is a membership level of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for boys and young men. It provides effective youth training in character, citizenship, and mental and personal fitness. Boy Scouts are expected to develop personal religious values, learn the principles of American heritage and government, and acquire skills to become successful adults.

To achieve these, Boy Scouting applies eight methods of Scouting: Ideals (viz., the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout Motto, and the Scout Slogan), the patrol method, participation in outdoor programs, advancement, adult association, personal growth, leadership development, and the uniform.

Boy Scouting is generally available to boys between the ages of eleven and seventeen. They are organized in Scout troops, administered by volunteers with support of paid professional staff. Youth and adult members are Scouts, the boys are referred to as Boy Scouts, and the adults as Scouters.[1]

In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility conducted by Nye Lavalle & Associates. The study showed that the Boy Scouts was ranked as the 7th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 42% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing Love and Like A lot for the Boy Scouts .[2]

Program and activities

The troop program and activities are determined by the senior patrol leader and the patrol leaders council under the oversight of the Scoutmaster. Troops generally hold meetings weekly, although they can be irregular during the summer. Troop meeting activities may vary from training in Scout skills to planning camping trips or playing games.

Troops may plan outings and activities outside the troop meeting. These may involve camping, backpacking, hiking, canoeing, rafting, climbing, caving, rappelling, and other activities. These outings are an important place for Scouts to work on skills and rank advancement, have fun, and engage in productive outdoor activities.[3]

Most councils own and operate one or more permanent camps. These camps may host a variety of activities throughout the year. The summer camp program provides a week-long session for troops that includes merit badge advancement and adventure activities. Facilities may include ranges for shooting sports — archery, rifle, and shotgun — and for climbing and rappelling.

Outdoor Code
As an American, I will do my best:
  • to be clean in my outdoor manners,
  • to be careful with fire,
  • to be considerate in the outdoors, and
  • to be conservation-minded
Boy Scout Handbook, 11th edition

It is common for several troops within a district or council to gather at least once a year at a special weekend campout called a camporee. A camporee is a district- or council-wide event where several units camp and engage in activities, Scoutcraft competitions and learn specialized skills.

The national Scout jamboree usually occurs every four years, and draws more than 30,000 Scouts from across the country and the world.[4] The last jamboree took place in 2005 at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, and the next will occur in 2010, celebrating the BSA's centennial.


Scout Slogan
Do a Good Turn Daily
Boy Scout Handbook, 11th edition

The Scout Law, Scout Oath, Scout Motto, Scout Slogan, and Outdoor Code are the cornerstones of Boy Scouting. Each Scout learns to use make these ideals a part of their way of life and personal growth.[5] Boy Scouts must memorize and understand these ideals. They also represent these ideals symbolically in official emblems.

The Scout Sign is used when giving the Scout Law or the Scout Oath and as a signal for silence. The Scout Salute is used when saluting the flag of the United States. The left-handed handshake is used as a token of friendship and as an identity with Scouts worldwide.[6][7]


First Class emblem
First Class emblem Boy Scouts of America

Boy Scouting uses a series of medals and patches as emblems. The badge for the Scout rank consists of a simple fleur-de-lis, which symbolizes a compass needle. The needle points the Scout in the right direction, which is onward and upward.[8] The Tenderfoot badge takes the fleur-de-lis of the Scout badge and adds two stars and an eagle with an American shield. The stars symbolize truth and knowledge; the eagle and shield symbolize freedom and readiness to defend it. The Second Class badge features a scroll inscribed with the Scout Motto, with the ends turned up and a knotted rope hanging from the bottom. The knot reminds each Scout to remember the Scout slogan, and the upturned ends of the scroll symbolize cheerfulness in service. The First Class badge combines the elements of the Tenderfoot and Second Class badges. For years, the First Class badge was used as the emblem of the BSA. Star has a First Class symbol on a five-pointed yellow star, and initially indicated the five merit badges required to earn the rank. Life has a First Class emblem on a red heart, and initially symbolized the first-aid and health-related merit badges that the rank required. Now it signifies that the ideals of Scouting have become a part of the Scout's life and character.[9]

Uniform and insignia

Main article: Uniform and insignia of the Boy Scouts of America

The uniform and insignia of the Boy Scouts of America gives a Scout visibility and creates a level of identity within both the unit and the community. The uniform is used to promote equality while showing individual achievement. While uniforms are similar in basic design, they do vary in color and detail to identify the different divisions of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venturers, and Sea Scouts.

Scouts and adult leaders wear the Boy Scout uniform.[10] It generally consists of a khaki button-up shirt, olive green pants or shorts, belt, and neckerchief. The Scouter dress uniform is appropriate for professional Scouters and Scouting leaders on formal occasions.[11]


Troop and patrols

The troop is the fundamental unit of Boy Scouting.[12] The troop size can vary from a minimum of five Scouts to several dozen. Each troop is sponsored by a community organization such as a business, service organization, private school, labor group or religious institution. The chartered organization is responsible for providing a meeting place and promoting a good program. A chartered organization representative manages the relationship between the troop, the chartered organization, and the BSA.

Each troop is divided into patrols of eight or so Scouts led by a patrol leader elected from within the patrol.[13] Patrol meetings are generally held during the weekly troop meeting. The patrol's independence from the troop varies among troops and between activities. Patrols' autonomy becomes more visible at campouts, where each patrol may set up its own camping and cooking area. Divisions between patrols may disappear during an event which only a small part of the troop attends. Patrols may hold meetings and even excursions separately from the rest of the troop.[12]

Troops mix older and younger Scouts in the same patrols, so that the older boys can teach the younger ones more effectively. When a Webelos den crosses over from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting, the "new Scout patrol" method may be used. The new Boy Scouts are kept together as a group, elect their own patrol leader, and are assigned a troop guide—an older Scout who acts as a mentor.[12]

Venture BSA

Venture patrol strip

Some troops establish Venture patrols as an optional program for boys thirteen through seventeen years old. Venture patrols experience more autonomy from the troop than ordinary patrols, and provide older Scouts with expanded social contact and physical challenges. The Venture patrol is guided by the assistant Scoutmaster-Venture who is responsible for Venture patrol activities. Venture patrol members wear the standard Boy Scout uniform with the Venture strip over the right pocket. Patrol members are Boy Scouts and should never be referred to as Venture Scouts.[14]

Other sections

Lone Scout BSA

Lone Scout logo

The Lone Scout program serves boys who cannot take part in a nearby troop on a regular basis because of distance, weather, time, disability, or other difficulties. While the Scout does not participate in troop or patrol activities, he does learn the fun, values, and achievements of Scouting.[15]

Varsity Scouting is part of the Boy Scouting division of the BSA. It is an alternative available to boys ages fourteen through seventeen that takes basic Boy Scouting and adds high adventure, sporting, and other elements that are more appealing to older youth to accomplish the aims of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness.[16] Varsity Scouts are organized into teams, which are separate chartered units from a Boy Scout troop. Varsity Scouts participate in the standard Boy Scouting advancement program along with programs unique to Varsity Scouting.

The Order of the Arrow (OA) is a program of the Boy Scout division of the BSA. It is the BSA's national honor society for experienced campers, based on Native American traditions, and dedicated to the ideal of cheerful service.[17][18] Scouts and Scouters must belong to a troop or team to become OA members. The OA is run by youths under the age of 21 with adult Scouters serving as advisers.

Advancement and recognition

Main article: Advancement and recognition in the Boy Scouts of America

Youth advancement

For more details on ranks, see Ranks in the Boy Scouts of America .

Boy Scouts has seven ranks, grouped into two phases. The first phase of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class is designed to teach the boy Scoutcraft skills, teamwork, and self-reliance.[19][20][21][22] Scout is the first rank, awarded when a boy first joins the Scouts, and requires just a rudimentary knowledge of Scouting's ideals. Further ranks have progressive requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth, and Scout Spirit. Scouts with a permanent mental or physical disability may use alternate requirements, based on their abilities and approved by the council.

Ford Scout

Michigan Eagle Scouts in 1929, including President Gerald Ford at age 16

The second phase of Star, Life, and Eagle is designed to develop leadership skills and encourage the Scout to explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program.[23][24][25] These ranks require that the boy serve in a position of responsibility and perform community service.

The Eagle Scout requires, in addition to merit badges and a position of responsibility, a community service project planned and led entirely by the Eagle Scout candidate. After attaining the rank of Eagle, a Scout may earn Eagle Palms for additional tenure and merit badges.

Although Eagle is the highest rank, for which Scouts should strive, the number of Scouts achieving First Class within one year of joining is still one of the key measures of unit effectiveness. Studies have shown that if a Scout achieves First Class within a year of joining, he typically stays in Scouting for at least three years. Scouts who do so are more likely to retain Scout values as an adult and achieve the BSA primary mission of "producing useful citizens".[26]

Ranks and other recognitions are presented in a troop awards ceremony called the court of honor. The Eagle Scout rank is usually presented in a separate and special court of honor.

Adult recognition

Boy Scout leaders who complete training, tenure, and performance requirements are recognized by a system of awards. The Scouters Training Award is available to leaders, while the Scouter's Key and Scoutmaster Award of Merit are only available to the Scoutmaster. The pinnacle of Scout leader training is Wood Badge, for which successful participants receive a special neckerchief, woggle and wooden beads on a thong.


Several religious emblems programs are administered by various religious institutions and recognized by the BSA. These are generally recognized by a medal and an embroidered square knot. Other advancement and recognitions—such as the 50-miler award, Crime Prevention Awards, Emergency Preparedness Award and World Conservation Award—are available to Scouts who show proficiency in special areas.[27] BSA's National Court of Honor is responsible for lifesaving and meritorious awards.[28] All Courts of Honor for Eagle Scout rank are convened as National Courts of Honor also.

Leadership in the troop

Every troop has two separate leadership structures: one consisting of Scouts and another consisting of adults.[12] The adult leadership manages the logistics of troop activities, administers rank advancement and awards, maintains troop records and finance, and recruits new Scouts and adult leaders. The youth leadership keeps order and coordinates labor at activities. Scouts and adults cooperate to plan agendas for troop meetings, as well as the troop's schedule of outings.

Adult leadership

The troop committee is made up of responsible adults who are approved by the local council and the chartered organization.[12] The committee chairman leads the committee and appoints its members to specific tasks such as treasurer, secretary, advancement, activities, equipment and membership. The committee and the chartered organization representative are responsible for the selection of the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmasters. The Scoutmaster must be at least twenty-one and is directly responsible for training and guiding the boy leaders, working with other adults to bring Scouting to boys, and for using the methods of Scouting to achieve the aims of Scouting. A troop may have a chaplain who helps to provide a spiritual element in the unit program, provides spiritual counseling as needed, and encourage Scouts to participate in the religious emblems program.[29]

Youth leadership


Five new graduates of BSA's Junior Leader Training, June 2004

The youth leader of the troop is the senior patrol leader (SPL), elected by the Scouts in the troop.[12] He is responsible for the overall performance of the troop, runs troop meetings and ensures that the program for troop meetings and other activities is carried out. He is advised by the Scoutmaster. There may also be one or more assistant senior patrol leaders.[12] Each patrol elects a patrol leader who then appoints an assistant patrol leader and other positions within the patrol. Together, the senior patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader and patrol leaders make up the patrol leaders council (PLC), the group of Scouts that is responsible for developing the troop's program with the advice of the Scoutmaster.

There are other youth positions of responsibility in a troop; the use of these positions is dependent on the size of the troop and the program.[12] The junior assistant Scoutmaster (JASM) is a 16- or 17-year-old Scout who performs the same duties as an assistant Scoutmaster; the scribe takes minutes at patrol leaders council meetings and troop meetings and is often responsible for taking attendance and collecting money or dues; the quartermaster maintains the troop's equipment; the librarian maintains the troop library; the chaplain aide works with the troop chaplain and promotes the religious program in the troop; the troop historian maintains photos and records of troop functions, meetings and outings; a den chief works with a den of Cub Scouts, assisting the den leaders and helps retain Cub Scouts when they cross over into Boy Scouts; the troop guide is a senior Scout who provides guidance to new Scout patrols; the Order of the Arrow representative provides a line of communication between the Order of the Arrow and the troop; the bugler provides music as needed; the instructor teaches Scout skills. These troop positions are appointed by the senior patrol leader with the advice and counsel of the Scoutmaster, except for the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, who is appointed by the Scoutmaster.


Boy Scout Monument

Boy Scout Memorial in President's Park, Washington, D.C.

The Scoutmaster provides Troop Leadership Training (TLT) at the troop level. Youth leaders are encouraged to attend National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) at the council level and a select few may progress to National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) at the national level.[30] Those interested in staffing these courses may complete the Youth Staff Development Course (YSDC) at the regional level.

New adult leaders are encouraged to attend training for their position.[31] This training provides the essential information they need to provide a safe and successful quality program. Fast Start Training is the introduction for adult leaders new to the Boy Scout program; it is self pace and provided as a video or online.[32] New Leader Essentials is common core training for adult leaders in the and gives an overview of the Scouting.

Youth Protection Training (YPT) covers the BSA policies on child abuse, including types and signs of abuse, how to respond to disclosed abuse and how to report suspected abuse. Units are required to have adults who are YPT certified and responsible for training youth. YPT recertification intervals are determined by the local council policy.[32] At least one person with current YPT certification must be preset on outings.

Scoutmasters and assistants should then attend Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster Specific Training and Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills for further instruction in Scouting and outdoor skills. This completes Basic Leader Training for these positions and the Trained emblem may be worn. The troop committee chairman and members should attend the Troop Committee Challenge for instruction in administering the program.[32] This completes Basic Leader Training for these positions and the Trained emblem may be worn.

Supplemental training modules are designed to provide orientation beyond Basic Leader Training. These shorter training sessions are often provided at the Roundtable, a monthly meeting of leaders from the district, at a University of Scouting offered by the local councils, and at National Training Conferences held at the Philmont Training Center and the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base.[32]

At least one leader with current Safe Swim Defense training is required for swimming activities. Boating activities require Safety Afloat and CPR training. Climb On Safely training and CPR certification are required for climbing and rappelling events.

Wood Badge is advanced training for leadership skills for adults in the BSA. Wood Badge consists of six days of training (usually presented as two three-day weekends) and an application phase of several months. When training is complete, leaders are recognized with the Wood Badge beads, neckerchief, and woggle. Powder Horn is a high adventure resource course designed to help Scout leaders to safely conduct outdoor activities of a fun and challenging nature, provide an introduction to the resources necessary to successfully lead their youth through a program of high adventure and to understand what is involved in different high adventure disciplines.


  1. What Is Boy Scouting?. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  2. The Charities Americans Like Most And Least, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 13, 1996 And USA Today, December 20, 1994, "Charity begins with health", FINAL 01D
  3. Scouting: An Educational System. World Organization of the Scout Movement (1998). Retrieved on 2006-07-10., p. 9
  4. 2005 National Scout Jambore. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 2008-06-25.
  5. What Is Boy Scouting?. BSA Fact Sheet. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 2006-02-27.
  6. The Origin Of The Left Hand Shake. Retrieved on 2007-02-14.
  7. The Left-Hand Handshake. The Scouting Pages. Retrieved on 2007-02-14.
  8. Baden-Powell, Robert. Lessons From The Varsity of Life. Pinetreeweb. Retrieved on 2007-02-17.
  9. (1998) The Boy Scout Handbook, 11th, Irving, TX: Boy Scouts of America, 7,9. ISBN 0-8395-3105-2. 
  10. Peterson, Robert (2002). From Doughboy Duds to Oscar de la Renta. Scouting. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 2006-01-12.
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  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 Boy Scouts of America Organization. Retrieved on 2007-02-17.
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  17. Davis, Ken (2000). Brotherhood of Cheerful Service: A History of the Order of the Arrow, 3rd edition. Order of the Arrow. 
  18. Block, Nelson (2000). A Thing of the Spirit, The Life of E. Urner Goodman. Boy Scouts of America. 
  19. Boy Scout Joining Requirements. U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved on 2006-03-23.
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  21. Second Class Rank Requirements. U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved on 2006-03-23.
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  25. Eagle Rank Requirements. U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved on 2006-03-23.
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  28. National Court of Honor — Lifesaving and Meritorious Awards. US Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
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  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 BSA Online Learning Center. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 2006-04-12.

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