Brianna Tavares lights up when speaking about the strides Boys Scouts of America has made.
“We’ve recently had a Youth to Youth Training for our youth staff working with our younger kids,” explains Tavares, San Benito District associate for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Silicon Valley Monterey Bay.
“And our Youth Protection Training [for adult volunteers] has been updated, so that we can incorporate girls into the programs,” she gleams.
“So that’s kind of cool—and big!”
In fact, the topic of incorporating girls in the Boy Scouts has been a big one since October 2017, when the BSA Board of Directors unanimously agreed that girls be accepted into the Cub Scout program and announced families would be able to sign up both sons and daughters for the program beginning June 2018.
Charters and committees, however, are now given the choice whether or not to integrate girls into their packs. If charters don’t want a girl-integrated pack, they can establish all-girl packs.
Cub Scout dens remain single-gender, however, but they “still do pack and family stuff together,” Tavares says.
In January 2018, the BSA began an early adopter program allowing girl dens to be established in the Cub Scouts.
On June 1 of this year, it became possible for all BSA Cub Scout packs to have have girl dens.
“So Pack 455 and Pack 444 want to be what we call Whole Family Packs,” Tavares says of the local packs.
According to BSA chief scout executive Mike Surbaugh, these “whole family” packs are the answer to a question that has been raised for years: How does the BSA serve the whole family?
“Every task force that we’ve come up with always comes back to families looking for ways they can participate together,” Surbaugh explains on the www.scouting.org website.
Ultimately, the conversation was brought to each BSA council, Surbaugh explains, and surveys were given out asking all the key questions about what should be done moving forward.
Not every council participated in the surveys, but by the end of the process, 11,000 scouts weighed in, and “every one of those questions never varied more than 2 percentage points,” Surbaugh explains.
Pack 428, led by Aprilynn Wyatt, was the only pack to sign up for the early adopter program in the San Benito District.
Wyatt became Pack 428’s scoutmaster in February after previously being scoutmaster for Pack 444. When her son moved up to Boy Scouts, her daughter began showing interest in joining Cub Scouts.
“When they made the announcement that girls were allowed in, my daughter immediately said, ‘Yeah, we’re getting right back into Cub Scouts,’” Wyatt laughs.
“This is a kid who made a choice to play little league ball instead of softball, who isn’t held back in any other area in her life by her gender,” Wyatt says about her daughter Katie, who just became a first-year Webelo.
“Here’s an activity she really wanted to participate in; she saw her brother participate in it, and she loves it now.”
When Wyatt took over the pack in February, only one Cub Scout was left; the rest had moved on to Boy Scout troops.
“So rather than seeing a unit lapse that had been going since 1937, we decided to revive it,” Wyatt explains.
But she did more than revive it.
Pack 428 drastically changed once girls could become Cub Scouts. In the last six months, the pack has developed four functioning dens, two of which are girls’ dens.
According to Wyatt, the integration of girls in such Cub Scout events as Mom and Me camp and Day Camp has been “seamless.”
“The kids played together without any hesitation and without any hiccups,” Wyatt says.
“They are just scouts—just kids—and it doesn’t matter if they were boys or girls.”
But for others, the integration may not be so beneficial for boys.
One Cub Scout mother, Vicki Silva, has already seen a difference in discipline when it comes to boys and girls. These differences have become obvious at events where both girl and boy Cub Scouts are present.
“When boys don’t have girls around, they play a little differently,” Silva says. “With the girls there, the girls don’t like it the same.”
This echos the words of an anonymous Cub Scout, entering his second-year of WeBeLos.
“I’m kind of against [having girls as Cub Scouts] because they already have Girl Scouts for them,” he says.
“Boys are boys, and they have to act their way. With girls there, it would be different because girls are usually calmer than boys.”
Ella Henson, however, who’s son Jordan is in Pack 444, believes the change in scouting will be beneficial.
“Scouting offers so many opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be enjoyed, both for boys and girls,” Henson says.
“Coed scouting allows for boys to see girls do shooting sports, camping, et cetera, and realize that there are no limitations in what girls can do. I think it’s a great thing.”
Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo responded to BSA’s inclusion of girls in an emailed statement to Business Insider.
“We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents who want to provide their girls opportunities to build new skills, explore STEM and the outdoors, participate in community projects, and grow into happy, successful, civically engaged adults,” Acevedo said.
But perhaps the inclusion of whole families in Cub Scouts is a change for the better.
“We have a couple of families with boys and girls, and they love being able to bring everybody,” Wyatt says.
“It is really gratifying and heartwarming to see everybody getting all the benefits that scouts can offer without worrying about their background,” she adds. “I love seeing the families function together.”