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  • GSA vs. BSA

    Hi -

    I've been a Boy Scout leader for the past 10 years (with my 3 sons in Scouting), but only recently have become a Girl Scout leader for my daughters Troop. I am officially know as the "Camping Dude". I've done lots of Boy Scout-like camping and outdoor activities with the girls, including tent camping (they had only done cabin camping before), camp fire cooking, and teaching knife, axe and saw skills.

    I've noted that there are quite a few differences between the GSA and BSA, but the one that confuses me the most is the way the GSA handles summer camp. In the Boy Scouts, summer camp is a time of bonding for the Troop - we are all in the same camp site, eat in the dining hall together, play camp-wide games together, and hang out together. It really strengthens the Troop and the leadership of the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders.

    But for the GSA, no such summer camp exists. The girls are told to sign up for camp on their own, and then be randomly tossed into a cabin with a bunch of girls from other Troops. Not that this situation doesn't create new friendships and no doubt participation in fun activities. But it does nothing to strengthen the Troop itself. One girl from our Troop went to summer camp and said it was ok, but not so great because she didn't know anyone. My daughter is green with envy when we talk about Boy Scout camp and sleeping in tents and everything.

    Does anyone know why GSA does this? Why isn't there an option for the entire Troop to go and be together at summer camp?

    Also, whilst I rant, why isn't there a leadership structure in the Girl Scouts like the Boy Scouts. By being a Patrol Leader and then the Senior Patrol Leader, the boys learn lifelong lessons in leadership. But this doesn't seem to be part of the GSA at all. Why aren't we using this opportunity to teach girls to be leaders too?

    Any insights for this old Boy Scout oriented brain will be greatly appreciated!


  • #2
    Basically, the answer is - because GSUSA (no such thing as GSA) is simply NOT BSA. They are set up differently from BSA in just about every way. They are their OWN organization, and you need to learn to live with that.

    Summer Camp - Also a completely different concept from BSA. In BSA there is a very limited variety of programs available. Most of the focus is on earning merit badges. In GSUSA, camps are usually theme oriented. Girls can choose from a number of different things that interest THEM. You can have horse camps, drama camps, craft camps, archeology camps, canoeing camps, etc. There is nothing stopping more than one girl from a Troop, or even the entire Troop, from all signing up for the same camp. They can even request to be together. However, if you have dealt with the girls for any amount of time now, you know how hard it is to get just a few, much less ALL, to agree on anything. Also, while 1 or 2 girls might really love to go to canoe camp, you could just as easily have another 1 or 2 who would hate that, but get excited over making jewelry or throwing pots. GSUSA summer camps give the individual girl a chance to try something that interests her.

    Troop Structure - Patrols IS a form of Troop government in GSUSA. There are others. It is not mandatory to use any particular form. It IS recommended that the GIRLS are the ones who decide what form they use in their Troop.


    • #3
      I went down this same road with my eldest daughter. I was really surprised at the differences and wondered if it was my bias to BSA. They told me we could run a GS troop like a patrol and that patrol is independent from others. That made no sense to me, as there is no way to gather camping gear or otherwise that will be utilized by younger Scouts. Each Troop (patrol) does it all themselves, which greatly limits resources, the number of parents to pitch in, and inhibits annual program consistency. They also told me we could structure the troop like a BS unit, with multiple ages involved. Of course that makes the most sense to me, as doing it the prior way really doesnt lend itself to leadership roles or mentoring. Summer camp is a whole different issue, I just dont get it!
      My wife was the Troop leader and I wanted to take them camping. From what I recall I couldnt stay in the campsite. How far away do I need to be? They seemed to be dealing with me in a manner that I really felt I wasnt welcomed, which if I pulled that approach on a female in BS, wow.
      I have a younger daughter coming up and I brought up Daisys just the other day. My wife roller her eyes, so maybe Ill follow through with it this time.


      • #4

        This year my son moves up to Webelos and my daughter is a Junior GS (4th grade twins), and I completely agree that the programs are so completely different, that it's sort of futile to compare them.

        I've been TL, DL, and CM in the pack and have also helped out my daughter's Brownie troop with a few Try-It's and at a few overnighters.

        As you say, the whole deal where each Troop is a different grade level and the Troops don't really interact is just maddening. At our kids' school there are 6 troops with 6 bank accounts, 6 treasurers, 6 schedules and not much interaction. A multi-level troop would seem to be the right way to go for mentoring purposes and to allow for a bigger pool of volunteers to tap into.

        My wife has done the camping training for GS and the restrictions on men at the campouts was interesting. Had to be separate from the girls by xxx feet, needed to point the opening of your tent away from the rest of the girls, couldn't sleep in the same tent as your daughter, etc...

        In the end, though, after being at several troop meetings with my daughter, the boys and girls really work at different levels with regards to how they interact with each other. In many respects, the hierarchical structure of girls leading other girls may not be the best (at least at the 8-9 year old level) since the girls really seem to want everything to be at a level playing field at this age. Example: if something as simple as the snacks aren't exactly the same for each girl (chocolate vs. vanilla, or oatmeal vs. chocolate chip), I've seen 4 girls out of 16 crying simultaneously about the unfairness of the whole deal. Maybe it's just the group that we have.

        My daughter, on the other hand, can't wait to get into Venturing. While she likes the social aspects of Girl Scouts and is planning on going after the Gold Award and sticking with it, she definitely prefers the more outward-focused program her brother gets to do (camping, shooting, "fun" stuff, etc..). She's already said she's going to go skydiving for her 18th birthday after she saw my wife do it. (My son and I both agree that we can pass on that one :-)

        Well, I've used up my $.02.


        • #5
          Whenever GS vs BS comes up, everyone seems to get wrapped up defending their position and demonizing the other. By bringing involvement with the other organization, you bring perspective, experience, and resources. Instead of trying to figure out why the other is "that way," it would be more helpful to find common ground and introduce other concepts of organization to the Scouts, and let them take it or leave it. There is a lot that can be learned from both by both.

          Girl Scout Troops are generally much smaller than Boy Scout Troops with a much more restricted age range. As a group gets larger, it needs more structure and delegated authority.

          As for no SPL, PLC etc, my experience is that Girl Scouts encourages more communal leadership and governing styles, and the girls seem to like it better than a more top down heirarchy like is commonly found in Boy Scout Troops.

          What I would personally like to see is for GSUSA to get better organized administratively and to not be so reflexively anti-male.


          • #6
            What I would personally like to see is for GSUSA to get better organized administratively and to not be so reflexively anti-male.

            You said it all brother. My wife is a GS leader and all of the other leaders have older sons that are scouts so this batch of ladies are very opinionated about what the like and dislike from each program. The just started pinewood derby.

            The biggest problem I see with GS is the temporary nature of the units.


            • #7
              Thanks for the info & and perspectives on this. I'm not interested in making waves at the National level or challenging the over all Girl Scout program. I've just been wondering, so appreciate the reply's. I offer my ideas and experience to the leaders of my daughters Troop, and some are taken and some are not. Then I go off to my "Man Tent" in the "Man Area" and keep my mouth shut. I agree that girls are very different than boys - in addition the already described things, there is no way boys would sit on each others laps and brush each others hair!
              My daughter is also on my case to start a Venture (or is it Venturing?) Crew. I don't know why I haven't jumped at - it's not like I'm doing all that much... father to 5 kids, husband, Scoutmaster, full time job, Girl Scout Camping Dude, among other things! My 14 daughter can't understand it... "Come on Dad, just start one!" I guess it'd only be an hour a week, so maybe...


              • #8
                Its a Venturing Crew, a stand alone unit chartered by the BSA and a Venture Patrol, part of a Boy Scout Troop, a stand alone u nit chartererd by the BSA. Youth members of the Venturing Crew are Venturers and boys in a Venture Patrol are Boy Scouts

                No such thing as a Venture Scout


                • #9
                  My daughter is a Brownie currently, and really hates it. She says they don't do anything fun. Of course she has gone with the family on Pack Family camp outs and Family resident camp. Because I am a single parent she goes on most of the cub outings. And IMHO GSUSA is missing the boat. I still haven't figured out what it is about. BSA program smacks you in the face the second you open the tiger book.

                  I would register her as a tiger this year if I could.....


                  • #10
                    "In many respects, the hierarchical structure of girls leading other girls may not be the best (at least at the 8-9 year old level) since the girls really seem to want everything to be at a level playing field at this age."

                    There really is no hierarchical structure of boys leading other boys in Boy Scouting at 8-9 year old level either. Those are Wolf and Bear Cub Scouts and real boy leadership doesn't start until Boy Scouting when the Boy Scout is 10 or 11. So I would suggest it is apples and oranges to compare what boys are doing at 10,11,12, etc. with girls at 8 or 9.

                    Our daughter was in Girl Scouts through Juniors which ended, if my memory is correct, at age 12. There was no Cadette Troop in our neighborhood and she didn't want to continue enough to travel a significant distance to be with girls she didn't particularly know. My wife was a Troop leader and simply used Boy Scout books. They did a lot of camping and had a great time.

                    At the risk of incurring fire and brimstone, my memory also is that there is a massive drop in participation in going from the age 12 Girl Scout organization to age 13. So essentially, Girl Scouting should be compared and contrasted with Cub Scouting. Except for very unusual Troops, substantial Girl Scout participation at Boy Scout age and level is not seen much.


                    • #11
                      when i worked for dupply division way back when, we actually had a few girl scout units come to the shop to buy program helps, how-to books, pwd cars, etc. The leaders I met complained aboy the program and the lack of support in the form of program materials. One GS leader was also a DL, and started doing the CS activities with her GS. It caught on.


                      • #12
                        "There really is no hierarchical structure of boys leading other boys in Boy Scouting at 8-9 year old level either. Those are Wolf and Bear Cub Scouts and real boy leadership doesn't start until Boy Scouting when the Boy Scout is 10 or 11. So I would suggest it is apples and oranges to compare what boys are doing at 10,11,12, etc. with girls at 8 or 9."

                        Yes, that's true as far as 8 or 9 year old boys leading 8 or 9 year old boys.

                        However, if you throw in Den Chiefs, the examples set by the Webelos in the Pack, and the fact that 1st to 5th grade boys get together on a frequent basis for pack meetings and events, there is a quite a bit of "leadership" (even if only by example) that the younger boys are exposed to. I guess maybe I could have been more clearer in my first post.

                        I always love the 1st pack meeting of the year to see the look on the new Tigers' faces as they try to take in everything. You have a group of boys who want to check out all the patches on the patch vests or the belt loops on the older boys. Then there are the ones that just love the older boys leading the flag ceremony or skits or songs or whatever. It really puts them on the Cub Scout path right from the get-go.

                        In a single-level Girl Scout troop, there is literally zero of that kind of interaction required by the GSA program. In a multi-level troop, that would not be the case, of course.


                        • #13
                          Im also a father of 4th grade cub scout and 4th grade junior girl scouts. They are twins and im the asst. Cub master in our pack and my wife is the leader of girl scouts.

                          I do ahve to say things are ran differnt between the two groups but some times i think the girls are better off. because each group has their own money and get to do more things like field trips and dont have to do it as a pack. Plus if the leaders want money to buy supplies they dont have to bring it in front of the pack to ask for it.

                          Now my daughters group does a powder puff that the cub scouts let them use their track. We work together on the same day and share the fee of the rental of the school.

                          But for camps I finaly took my sons group camping and they had a great time but as parents we sleep with another parent or with our son. Now for girls yes we cant sleep in the same room but neitehr can my wife unless there is another female adult who is unrelated to my wife. Nothing wrong with that due to now does you cant trust no one. But if i go with my daughter and she wants to sleep with me in a tent she can. no rule againts that its just she and i and another girl cant share a tent.

                          Now every council is differnt on rule in girls scouts and also some councils run camps but its up to the leaders in girl scouts were they take their girls camping. My wife perfers to do cabin camping but this last summer they did go tenting with the girls. So it depends on yoru age group and what they want to do.

                          Girl Scouts have more freedom on what they earn and dont have to have certain things done to bridge to the next group as cub scouts witch some times i wish cub scouts was more like that for the boys who fall behind the others and miss meetings.

                          I have been with my son since he was a tiger and i enjoy it very much and look forward to Boy scouts.
                          but I know if my daughter wants to go to summer camp with my son and i can take her i was told by our council but she knows its our time to bond like her mother and her get to do when they go on trips.

                          but I agree with the parent who saids half the time girls cant agree my wife usaly takes a vote and the vote with the highest is what they do.


                          • #14
                            My daughter is a Cadette Girl Scout (in 8th grade) and my son is a Tenderfoot (6th grade). I am a GS Leader and my exhusband is the local Cubmaster. I lead a kindergarten program for the Pack. I find that there are significant pros and cons from both sides. I like the way that BSA is more organized and I like the way GSUSA is safety oriented in the position of health records. My Girl Scouts knew more about tenting when they were in 2nd - 5th grade than the boys did. So much depends on the leadership team - if the leader likes to camp, they will lead the Scouts to the wilderness.
                            We are fortunate in that our GS cluster is a tight unit. What I mean is that from Daisys to Seniors we all meet at the same time in the same location. We are currently broken into Daisys (K), Brownies (grades 1-3), Juniors(4-6), Cadettes(7-9) and Seniors(10-12). It is great to see the older girls working with the younger ones, within the Cluster and the individual Troops. It can be difficult to gather supplies (such as for camping) but when we cross the Troop lines, we always have enough.
                            Our Boy Scout Troop is well organized, with a great Scoutmaster, and there is a large focus on backpacking. It is nice for the Troop to have suplies on hand immediately when an event is planned.
                            What it boils down to (for me) is the willingness and cooperation of the leaders with each other and the youth we are responsible for. If it needs doing, it gets done.


                            • #15
                              This whole conversation has been so facinating. My ex-husband was a scout master for 12 years and has been bringing to my attention the differences between the two organizations. As a GS leader for the last three years, I have to say that there are definate positives and negaives to not following the BSA model. The obvious negative is that the BSA has a much better structural system in place to teach leadership skills the the kids. The positive is that GSUSA has more freedom to choose a larger variety of ongoing activities as well as a broader range of camping opportunies. Combining the two would be the perfect program!