Both Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts have a long history in this country; BSA was founded in 1910 and is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness. The first Girl Scout troop was organized in 1912, and since then Girl Scouts has been known as an organization that builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
In Waukee, there are several different Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops that kids can get involved in. Those troops embrace the mottoes that scouting stands for — and they have lots of fun doing it.
For boys who are interested in starting scouting, the road begins with Cub Scouts. Most Cub Scouts packs are affiliated with a particular elementary school. In the Waukee school district, Pack 180 is made up of kids mostly from Brookview Elementary. The pack is also sponsored by the Waukee Rotary Club. About 50-60 kids are in Pack 180, and they are one of several packs in Waukee.
Kids get started in first grade when they enter cub scouts as Tiger Cubs, then progress to Wolves, Bears and Webelo 1 and Webelo 2. Once kids reach those milestones, they are ready to cross over into Boy Scouts.
“Typically you’re in fifth grade when you enter into Webelo 2 year,” says Cubmaster Bruce Hansen. “The goal is for those boys to cross over at our Blue and Gold banquet held every February. There’s a cool bridge that one of founders constructed that they cross during the ceremony, and then they cross over into Boy Scouts with the goal to become an Eagle Scout.”
Hansen says Cub Scouts is a family-oriented organization that helps young boys learn responsibility but also have fun. The Scouts have a meeting each month that is educational in nature. It might feature a speaker, science presentation or activity. They also do community outreach projects each month.
The projects can range from writing letters to troops to planting trees.
“We do community outreach projects like clean-up days,” says Hansen. “For 9/11 we raised funds in partnership with Iowa State Troopers and planted a tree. Our task was to get water to it since it was so dry.”
In the fall is the big popcorn Cub Scout fundraiser, which many people are familiar with. In the winter is the Pine Wood Derby. Each scout is given a piece of wood and makes a car out of it, which they race in January. In March, the group does Meals from the Heartland. And in the spring, they start thinking about camping, a big part of scouting.
“We’ve gone to Camp Mitigwa just outside Woodward,” says Hansen. “Youngsters go for two nights, and the Webelos for three nights. That’s a lot of fun. In June, we have a water bottle rocket launch. We get a two-liter and put fins on it and duct tape it and fill it up and launch it about 200 feet in the air, so the boys get a kick out of that.”
Hansen says he got involved with scouting because of his sons, and he’s happy to participate in an organization that helps boys to develop into responsible young men.
“It’s about having fun in the right way and helping these kids have fun,” he says. “There is so much that gets crammed into a young boy’s life with school and schedules. Where we’re immersed in tradition and morality, it’s also all about having fun and letting them have as many experiences as they can.”
For those who want to get started, Hansen says they can inquire about packs at any Waukee school. There are typically packs at each one, and each pack has a den of each level, with two leaders per group. They are looking for more parent volunteers as well. It’s a lot of fun, and it makes a big difference in the life of a young boy, Hansen says. For more information, check out https://beascout.scouting.org.
Boy Scouts is open to boys who are 11-17 years of age, or have earned the Cub Scouting Arrow of Light award and are at least 10 years old, or have completed the fifth grade and are at least 10 years old. Brett Thayer is the Scoutmaster for Waukee Troop 178, comprised of almost 40 Scouts in Waukee. The troop is part of the MidIowa Council, and its charter organization is the Waukee United Methodist Church. Thayer says he got involved in scouting when his oldest son became a cub scout.
“I like working with the kids and seeing them move up the ranks,” he says. “It’s exciting for them to see how they can learn new things. In Boy Scouts, there are over 130 merit badges you can earn. You only need 21 to be an Eagle, so there is a ton to choose from.”
Similar to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts also move through the ranks. They start out as Tenderfoot, and then move to Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Each has different requirements for advancing. Thayer says many boys move through the ranks relatively easily until they get to Eagle, and then it’s more challenging to achieve that rank, since they have to complete a large project to attain the rank.
Like Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts are also involved in a lot of different activities and projects. Troop 178 goes to summer camp every summer in St. Joseph, Mo., for a week. Some kids just left for Colorado for a high adventure trip that includes activities like hiking and water rafting.
“We camp once a month, even in the winter,” says Thayer. “It’s a lot of outdoor stuff. Last year we went to a ranch in Wisconsin, and they had climbing, a zip line and fishing and things like that.”
Thayer says what he appreciates about Boy Scouts is that it’s a great way for young men to learn life skills. They are also expected to live the Boy Scout oath not only during scouting events and meetings, but all the time.
“A few boys get in trouble, and we give them time to straighten up their act and then we advance them. But we won’t move them up unless they show they’re serious.”
To get involved, see www.waukeetroop178.com.
The fun isn’t all for the boys, though — Girl Scouts troops in Waukee can get girls involved with as well. Girls start out as Daisys in kindergarten and first grade. In second and third grade, they move to Brownies. They then advance to Juniors (grades 4-5), Cadets (grades 6-7), Seniors (grades 9-10) and Ambassadors (grades 11-12).
Carrie Hanson says that a troop is formed when there is enough interest among the girls and enough parent involvement to get one going. Girls are able to pick and choose which troop they want to join, as long as child/adult ratios are maintained. Ideally, there is a troop for each age group at each elementary school.
When girls start out as young scouts, the program is mostly led by the adults, but the goal is to eventually make it a girl-led program.
“The adult involvement drops to be more of a chaperone then, and by the time they’re Cadets, they do most of their own meeting planning and idea generation so they gain leadership skills,” she says. “There are different types of badges and activities they can learn based on what interests them.”
For those interested in joining, Hanson says there is usually a recruitment event in the fall. The last few years, they have done it during Waukee Fest. Typically an open registration night is held at the library in September, or girls can register anytime at http://www.girlscoutsiowa.org.
Adult involvement is also needed. Hanson says she got involved when her daughter started in Daisys and there wasn’t a troop available for her. She’s since become more involved through the Waukee Service Unit, coordinating various activities and programs. She finds it very rewarding.
“There are opportunities to be treasurer or a trainer; there are so many ways to get involved,” she says. “The Girl Scout program is to grow and strengthen girls and let them know what they can do in the world. They really want to make sure that girls connect with each other and grow to their full potential.”