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01/06/2014 01:10PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Back at the turn of the 20th century, British Army officer Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell discovered that his men did not know basic first aid or the elementary means of survival in the outdoors. He wrote a small handbook called Aids to Scouting, which emphasized resourcefulness, adaptability, and the qualities of leadership that frontier conditions demanded. Upon returning from war, Baden-Powell was amazed to discover the handbook had become popular with English boys who used it to play the game of Scouting. He took a group of about 20 them camping, and the boys had a great time. They divided into patrols and played games, went on hikes, and learned stalking and pioneering. They learned to cook outdoors without utensils. The next year, Baden-Powell published Scouting for Boys.

A few years later, American businessman William D. Boyce was in England and got lost in the fog. A boy appeared and offered to take him to his destination. When they arrived, Boyce tried to tip the boy, but the boy refused and courteously explained that he was a Scout and could not accept payment for a Good Turn. Intrigued, Boyce questioned the boy and learned more about Scouting. He visited with Baden-Powell and became captivated by the idea of Scouting. He brought the idea back to the States and on February 8, 1910, incorporated the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

About the same time, in 1912, Juliette Gordon Low, a woman from Savannah, GA, envisioned a world where girls would be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually.

She assembled 18 girls for the first meeting of what would become the foundation for the largest girl-centered organization in the country, the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Today, over a hundred years later, Scouting is stronger than ever and is the cornerstone of the development of many of our youth. As early as kindergarten for girls and first grade for boys, children can join Scouting and experience everything from outdoor skills to safety in the home, good manners to self-respect, physical fitness to spiritual growth, family to citizenship, making good choices to leadership skills. Above all, Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place, and the BSA program builds character, trains boys in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness. BSA believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

Right here On the Coast, children of all ages participate in Scouting. Scouting isn’t just about cookie and popcorn sales, although fundraising is an integral part of Scouting. On any given day there may be a Scout group cleaning up our beaches or restoring a boardwalk. They might be visiting the fire station learning about fire prevention or touring a local museum, learning our city’s history. They might be camping, or white-water rafting, or making Christmas cards for our troops, or working together to build a float to participate in a Christmas parade. They might be donning their Scout t-shirts so they can stuff potatoes in bags to help feed the hungry, or they might be buttoning up their uniforms to participate in a flag ceremony. Here On the Coast, Scouting is a year-round activity, and children and adult volunteers alike are enriched by the skills they acquire and the good deeds they perform as they venture through the Scouting program.

Although both boys and girls participate in Scouts, The BSA and the Girl Scouts of the USA are two completely separate organizations. Boys in the first through fifth grade join Cub Scouts, and the Cub Scout group is called a Pack. The boys are divided into groups by grade called Dens. First graders are Tigers, second graders are Wolves, third graders Bears, fourth graders Webelos (We’ll Be Loyal Scouts) I, and fifth graders are Webelos II. Children may join Scouts at any time – a previous rank isn’t required.

The highest rank in Cub Scouting is the Arrow of Light Award. Earning this rank prepares a Webelos Scout to become a Boy Scout. Webelos Scouts who have earned the Arrow of Light Award have also completed all requirements for the Boy Scout badge. This award is the only Cub Scout badge that can be worn on the Boy Scout uniform when a boy graduates into a troop.

At the end of the fifth grade year, Webelos IIs who have earned the Arrow of Light participate in the Crossover Ceremony where they walk across a bridge to the Boy Scout Troop of their choosing on the other side, ready to welcome them to the Troop.

Cub Scouts was created in 1930 in response to the hundreds of younger boys and their families who wanted a scouting program of their own. It is an organization geared toward the entire family. A Cub Scout has a handbook, specific to his Den level, filled with requirements and achievements to earn his badge. The younger ranks participate in group activities with their Dens, and their at-home requirements involve the help of their adult partners. For example, a Tiger is tasked to think of a chore he can do with his adult partner and do it. As the boys get older, the requirements stay appropriate for their age levels and they are activities the boys can do on their own, such as learn about the government or become proficient in swimming. Cub Scout activities encourage family participation, such as Family Camp, where all the families in the Pack camp together, each family responsible for its own Cub Scout.

One activity Destin Cub Scout Pack 504 participates in every year is the Crop Drop. “Good citizenship is a basic tenet of scouting,” explains Steve Cann, Cubmaster. “In November, our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts joined forces to support Destin's annual Crop Drop at Grace Lutheran church. Our scouts helped sort, bag, and load 88,000 pounds of fresh produce from nearby farms to be distributed to food banks in our community for families in need at Thanksgiving.” Bagging thousands of pounds of potatoes is a lot of work, but there is something about a big pile of dirt that gets these young boys excited.

In Boy Scouts, the focus is moved away from family activities and toward the boy himself. The advancement program for Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts in the BSA is symbolized by the earning of seven badges, six of which are considered ranks. The advancement program is often considered to be divided into two phases. The first phase, from joining to First Class, is designed to teach the boy Scoutcraft skills, how to participate in a group and to learn self-reliance. The Scout badge is awarded when the Scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals and program. Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class have progressively harder requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.

The second phase of Star, Life and Eagle is designed to develop leadership skills and allow the Scout to explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program. The Star and Life ranks require that the boy serve in a position of responsibility and perform community service. All ranks except for Scout rank require that the candidate participate in a Scoutmaster conference and pass a Board of Review.

The rank of Eagle is the highest a Boy Scout can earn. Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges and demonstrating Scout Spirit through the Boy Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Achieving the rank of Eagle is an accomplishment that future schools and employers consider quite prestigious. It is an honor that will follow an Eagle Scout for the rest of his life.

But Scouting isn’t only about community service and requirements – it’s about having fun, too! “Every summer we go to summer camp for a week, and we try to go somewhere different every year,” explains Jeff Jourdan, Scoutmaster of Destin Scout Troop 504. Last year they went to a beautiful camp outside Asheville, NC called Camp Daniel Boone, and next year they are going to Woodruff Scout Reservation in northern Georgia. For boys who are at least 13 years old, there is a two-week High Adventure backpacking trip called Philmont Scout Ranch that encompasses over 137,000 acres in the Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico. Last year they spent a weekend on a World War II-era aircraft carrier in Charleston, SC where they actually slept in the bunks on the ship and got to explore the ship on their own. “We like to go whitewater rafting every summer but we didn't take a separate trip last year because the summer camp we attended in North Carolina actually offered a day trip to go rafting that we took advantage of,” says Jeff.

Scouting has certainly become more adventurous. True, scouts hike and camp, but there is another wilderness Floridians know very well – the wilderness under the ocean. Florida is the home of The Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, a unique Scouting program that offers aquatics programs such as sailing, scuba diving, rustic camping on an undeveloped barrier island, and fishing. “Only there can you see fan coral and sea grass, sting rays and manatees, sharks and goliath grouper. And that's the wilderness that Scouts will explore at Sea Base,” explains Capt. Paul Beal, General Manager of Florida Sea Base. Registered Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venture Scouts, and adult leaders can participate in the Sea Base aquatic programs.

The original Sea Base location, on Lower Matecumbe in Islamorada on the Overseas Highway, began as a fishing camp after the highway opened in 1938. It was located so tourists could stay and fish while avoiding paying the toll to cross the Channel Two Bridge. In the early 1950s the Tollgate Inn was built, and in 1979 the BSA purchased the Tollgate Inn complex, and the Florida Gateway to High Adventure had a new home and a new name - the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base. Since 1980, the BSA has added participant dorms housing over 200 Scouts and leaders, scuba pools, conference/staff housing, program facilities and an administration building, making this facility a showplace of Scouting.

At Sea Base, the elevated dormitories look out across Florida Bay to one of the many bridges that separate the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean. The harbor has a 300-foot pier for the sailing yachts, as well as many smaller docks for its fleet of power boats. Scuba instruction is offered in special diving tanks complete with an underwater viewing port.

Only a few miles offshore, an extensive underwater living coral garden forms a barrier reef protecting the islands. Here, among pillars of living coral, swimmers come face-to-face with thousands of multi-hued tropical fish in water so clear that swimmers have the sensation of floating in mid-air. The area abounds with legends and tales of unequaled adventure. Even though the pirates and wreckers have been gone from this area for a long time, to this day the lure of discovering a buried treasure burns in the hearts of true adventurers.

For girls, the mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Girl Scouts is the premier leadership organization for girls and an expert on their growth and development. At three million strong, it is the largest girl-serving organization in the United States.

Girl Scouts helps every girl discover who she can be and what she can do, wherever she chooses to put her energies. Girl Scouting builds on a progressive, age-appropriate national curriculum that asserts that girls benefit from being with other girls who are socially and emotionally similar in their development. Daisies are for girls in kindergarten and first grade, girls in grades 2-3 are Brownies, Juniors are for grades 4-5, grades 6-8 are Cadettes, Senior is grades 9-10 and finally girls in grades 11-12 are Ambassadors.

Girl Scouting takes shape in a variety of flexible ways. These options give girls the opportunity to build an experience as unique as they are. It offers activities that fit all age levels and the busy schedules girls and their families have today. It provides many options for girls to be able to participate in the Girl Scout programs and activities. These include the traditional Troop as well as Camp, Events, Series, Travel and Virtual. Girls choose the method that fits them the best, and they can even choose more than one.

Girls Scouts actively engage in activities related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). They are empowered with financial literacy tools. Millions of girls now learn their economic ABCs through the Girl Scout Cookie Program: goal setting, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. No university has produced as many female business owners as the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Girl Scouts focuses on healthy living with programs reflecting that physical health, emotional health and self-esteem are all connected.

Environmental leadership is also a high priority in Girl Scouting. In 2009, more than 83,000 girls nationwide worked directly with conservationists and scientists to complete environmental service projects in 43 states.

Right here On the Coast, Girl Scouts are discovering, connecting and taking action through a number of service projects that directly benefit our communities. From Florosa to Eglin AFB and throughout Fort Walton Beach, girls are learning by doing. They provided shelter for migrating birds by building nesting boxes to be placed on Hurlburt's nature trail. Their concern for animals led to the complete renovation of the SOCKS (Save Our Cats and Kittens) Shelter, refurbishing rooms with cat-friendly walls, new bathroom fixtures and cat climbing trees and scratching posts. They are also taking on the maintenance of a large, overgrown flower bed at Ferry Park in Fort Walton Beach, working with a master gardener to learn all the aspects about maintaining the bed from soil quality to when and what to plant.

Members of the community also directly benefit from the efforts of the local Girl Scout troops. The girls collected blankets and toiletries for the cold night shelter for the homeless, visited the residents at Belvedere Retirement Center and donated wind chimes, bird feeders and birdseed to be hung outside their bedroom windows, and recruited help to renovate the bird feeders hung outside the rooms at the Westwood Health Care Center. Girls visited the Chatauqua Nursing Home in Defuniak Springs, sang carols and gave gifts they had made to the residents.

You will find girls engaged in writing letters to deployed military units, sending cards to people in nursing homes, making table decorations for the St. John Canty Soup Kitchen to brighten their meals during both fall and winter. This past November, you may have seen them marching in the Veterans' Day Parades to show their patriotism. Additionally they conduct flag ceremonies for many organizations as well as flag retirement ceremonies.

“We are proud to provide girls with opportunities to discover, connect and take action through structured activities to confidently lead and find solutions for today’s challenges and opportunities,” states Raslean M. Allen, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle, Inc.

After hearing of the plight of a former leader whose husband was stationed in Afghanistan during the bitter winter, one troop began making scarves and hats for the freezing children in Afghanistan, while other girls learned to use sewing machines to make "Little Dresses for Africa," a project to help clothe little girls there.

In addition to the skills learned through the various age-appropriate activities and programs, girls are provided the opportunity to strive for specific Girl Scout awards. The Gold Award, the equivalent to the Eagle Scout award, is the highest award and most prestigious award a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador can earn. In 2013, Rebecca Ann Darden from Ft. Walton Beach earned the Gold Award for her project which was the culmination of years of planning and implementation.

The Girl Scout Silver Award is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn. The Silver Award Take Action project may be an individual or group project which impacts the community outside of Girl Scouts. The highest award a Girl Scout Junior can earn is the Girl Scout Bronze Award. The Bronze Award is a leadership adventure project which may be an individual or group project which impacts the community or Girl Scouts.

What’s great about Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts alike is children can join at any time, whether they are interested at an early age or later when they see their peers enjoying scouting. Perhaps learning that their favorite astronaut, Neil Armstrong, was an Eagle Scout might persuade them to decide to join. Maybe seeing Katie Couric on TV and hearing her talk about when she was a Girl Scout will make them want to learn more. A child aspiring to be President of the United States would be encouraged to know that John F. Kennedy was a scout and so were George and Laura Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, Nancy Reagan, and President Barack Obama. Music lovers might be interested to know Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and Jimmy Buffet were scouts. Sports enthusiasts? Hank Aaron, Bruce Jenner, Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill and Nolan Ryan – all scouts.

There is no denying that Scouting enriches the lives it touches, from our very young children to our young men and women about to venture out on their own to our adult volunteers who guide the way. To learn more about joining or volunteering for Scouts, contact our local councils:

Girl Scouts: The Girl Scout Council of the Florida Panhandle.

Boys Scouts: The Gulf Coast Council, Choctawhatchee District

About the Author:
Denise Gates is a freelance writer and editor, the stay-at-home mother of two teenage boys, and a military wife whose husband’s career takes her all over the country but whose heart remains in Destin, FL.
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City+School, Community scouting boy scouts girl scouts denise gates

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