This is the third BP Pointer in “The BP 2019 List” (or: ways to Be Prepared for Scouts BSA on February 1, 2019). This is about much – or how little – Scouts BSA troops of boys and troops of girls can do activities together, which is often a key point in developing how to make Scouts BSA work in your local situation.
This note in the prior BP Pointer is worth repeating: All Scouting is Local, and Use Your Resources. Provided that you follow key rules (like Youth Protection, including adequate female adult leadership), Chartered Organizations and their troops have significant discretion in how much the two troops do together.
- So if your community (Chartered Organization, Adult Leaders, Youth Leaders, Scouts, Families, Community) wants to have fully gender-separate programs, activities, space, and adult leadership, that’s fine.
- You have that option.
- Your troops can walk their own separate trails apart from each other.
- And if your community wants to have joint programs, activities, space, and adult leadership between the two troops, that’s fine too, with just a few caveats.
- You have that option.
- Your troops can share the same trail, so long as Youth Protection rules are followed.
Most pairs of troops will do some things jointly, and some things separately, because there can be advantages to both. All Scouting is Local. Use Your Resources.
While troops will be single gender – all boys or all girls – the chartered organization and the troop leaders (the youth leaders in the patrol leader’s councils, advised by the respective Scoutmasters) can decide meeting times and places, so separate girl troops and boy troops could meet at the same time and place, and plan joint events together (like campouts). So:
- Troops of girls and troops of boys may choose to have some – or many (or all) – meetings and activities in the same time and space, with coordination by the respective Patrol Leaders Councils of the two troops, advised by the respective Scoutmasters.
- In some cases, this is to provide the convenience that some families prize and that the BSA wanted to deliver through Family Scouting, like avoiding separate program dates and times and locations for brothers and sisters.
- This may also maximize limited adult leader time (especially for leaders with both daughters and sons), so that they don’t have to double their volunteer commitment if the two troops have separate meeting and activity schedules.
- And troops of girls and troops of boys may change their plans and programs over time.
- Some years the different troops may “go their own way” if that’s what the youth leaders of the troops plan. They run their troops, after all.
- Other years they may do more together.
But but but … what exactly is the National advice on troop meetings? The 2018 Program Update page from National includes these points in Frequently Asked Questions:
- “Q: Can a boy troop and girl troop meet at the same time?
- A: Yes. Based on the preferences of the chartered organization, the boy troop and girl troop could meet at the same time and place.
- Q: Can a boy troop and girl troop meet as one big troop?
- A: Opening and closing of the meetings can be together or separate, depending on space and desire of the chartered organization and unit leadership. The other components of the Scout meeting should be run separately.”
So, yes, a troop of girls and a troop of boys can meet at the same time and in the same place. Certain parts of the troop meeting can clearly be done together, other items “should” be run separately (note that “should” does not mean “must”). For context, the components of a troop meeting are (1) Preopening, (2) Opening Ceremony, (3) Skills Instruction, (4) Patrol Meetings, (5) Interpatrol Activity, (6) Closing, and (7) After the Meeting. The FAQs clearly authorize openings and closings done together or separate. Review of the other five components may shed some further light on what should be done and when:
- Since Part 1 (Preopening) is “gathering” time for Scouts and planning, if you do any meeting parts together, you’re likely doing any planning part together. And Scouts will participate in informal gathering activities together or separately as they choose.
- For Part 3 (Skills Instruction — or Group Instruction and Skills Instruction), that may depend on the nature of the instruction: for example, if the two troops PLCs determine to have a Merit Badge Instruction program, maybe all can receive instruction together, but if they have general “stations” of different instruction topics, maybe the Troops do that separately.
- By definition, Part 4 (Patrol Meetings or Breakout Groups) will be separate, since the patrols in the two troops are separate by definition.
- It’s easy to see how Part 5 (Inter-patrol Activity or Game) might become also an “inter-troop” activity between the respective patrols of the two troops. If the PLCs approve.
- While Part 6 (Closing) can be done together, there are strong reasons to do those separately, including having the separate Scoutmasters tailor their SM Minutes to their separate troops and Scouts.
- And for Part 7 (After the Meeting), since that involves the leadership team reviewing plans for the next meeting or event, if the two troops do things together, having some planning time together makes sense for the parts done together.
Bottom line is that troop activities can be as separate or together as the chartered organization and the troop leaders want. No answer is always right, nor is any answer always wrong. There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice. For some tips on how to navigate the decision, and how to get to the best possible (or least worst) decision on joint activities, see the BP Pointers to follow on building consensus with adult leaders, Scouts and families.
For more, see posts here and to follow for past and upcoming items in the BP 2019 List (and for upcoming items that are not complete, shoot your comments to this Family Scouting email, as that might result in updates and clarifications). More about what troop leaders might want to know about family scouting and girls is found on this District page of Scouts BSA resources and ideas.