Robert Baden-Powell called scouting “a game”— a game the BPSA feels should be open and available to everyone. This spirit of fun, positivity, and shared experience is at the heart of everything we do— even those activities that are quite serious at heart.
The aims of BPSA scouting include:
- —Character development: training scouts of all ages in the personal merits of honor, duty, and self-reliance. “Doing one’s best” is at the heart of everything we do.
- —Training in service and citizenship: instilling loyalty and thoughtfulness as we render service to others, and learning more about our local and national communities; these are keys aspects for every responsible citizen.
- —Personal health and fitness: encouraging practices that promote sound physical, mental, and emotional development and lifelong habits for well-being.
We accomplish these aims by using Baden-Powell’s “scout method”— a system of progressive self-education that uses these tools:
- — A scout uniform, motto, promise, and law
- — A hands-on approach to “learning by doing”
- — Baden-Powell’s patrol system
- — A program of activities that focuses on individual growth and takes place largely in the outdoors
- — An advancement program based on personal challenges, growth mindset, and acquisition of useful skills
- — An emphasis on traditional outdoor abilities and scoutcraft
- — An ethic of service and citizenship— which begins with knowledge and awareness of one’s own community
The Motto, Promise, and Law
Our scouting motto, promise, and law help us to solemnize our involvement in BPSA scouting. The versions may vary according to section, but the intention is the same: that scouts, on their honor, will do their best. Speaking these words aloud, with their accompanying handsign, helps show our shared unity in scouting. Over time, scouts of all ages come to think even more of what these words mean to them, and how their lives have been changed as a result. To a BPSA scout, honor is everything.
Learning by Doing
Learning works best through a “hands-on” approach— not by reading a book or watching a web video. In the BPSA, skills are demonstrated and taught by one who already possesses the skills. The learners practice until they, too, can demonstrate the technique, and then they, in turn, become teachers. “Each one see one, do one, teach one” describes our approach to learning in the BPSA.
It’s also worth noting that both youths and adults serve as teachers. Baden-Powell’s “patrol method” creates a structure through which members teach and learn from one another. In the BPSA, a teacher may equally be a youngster as an adult: all have a chance to share their knowledge and skills.
The Patrol System
The patrol system is the one essential feature in which scout training differs from that of all other organizations, and where properly applied, B-P tells us it is absolutely bound to bring success.
A patrol is a small group of scouting peers who are close in age. In the BPSA, Pathfinder Troops are separated into patrols, and Rover Crews may also form patrols. Otter Rafts mimic this same structure by forming dens, in Timberwolf Packs by forming sixes. The patrols and patrol-like structures form the small units in which scouts work together, whether for work or play, for discipline or duty.
The patrol system places responsibility on each individual. Each small unit is led by a single scout serving as the leader; members then work with their leader to accomplish the group’s goals. Spirited competition between patrols adds fun and enthusiasm and develops increased proficiency as the scouts teach and learn from one another. Each scout in the patrol realizes that they are important to the group’s success, and through shared collaboration, the patrol, six, or den succeeds. They learn first-hand about reliability and have a chance to both cooperate and lead.
Program and Activities
In the BPSA, section leaders work with scouts to develop and implement a rich program of varied activities that supports the organization’s aims and methods. A strong BPSA program focuses on interesting activities that support advancement, service, and personal growth. Each scout advances at their own pace, and every program considers both individual and group needs.
Whenever possible, program takes place in the outdoors and includes specific outdoor skills and activities. You’ll find BPSA scouts of all ages outside in all kinds of weather, even rain and snow: as one of our leaders put it, “Challenging weather gives us a great chance to test our gear and our scout skills!”
Each section has its own advancement program designed to track a scout’s growing proficiency in a number of skill areas. Advancement may be completed, at least in part, individually, but it is also part of a rich scouting program, and it’s traditional for scouts to teach and learn from one another.
Baden-Powell called scouting “a school of the woods.” He felt that spending time in the outdoors built strength, awareness, and competence in ways that could not be achieved in the home, school, or community setting.
Today, scientists have proven that time spent in the outdoors has measurable benefits on human health and well-being. The outdoors calms our spirits, lowers our blood pressure, stabilizes mood, and may lift depression. It also heightens our sense of awareness and may make us more innovative. Scouts in the BPSA spend as much time in the outdoors as possible, whether camping, hiking, exploring, swimming, boating, or engaging in other pastimes.
Service and Citizenship
According to the US Citizen and Immigration Services, a citizen’s responsibilities include:
Staying informed of the issues affecting one’s community
Participating in the democratic process
Respecting and obeying federal, state, and local laws
Participating in one’s local community
Through community activities and service, these activities form a central part of the BPSA program. Our scouts may visit local fire stations and City Halls, study and learn to handle the flag, march in community parades, participate in local environmental initiatives, contribute to food banks, find out about local laws, or visit the sick. These are only a few examples of the ways we interleave service and community with scouting.