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AltadenaCraig

Unapologetically Exploiting GSUSA's Achilles' Heels

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Tonight my small linked-troop of five registered scouts will be visited-upon by a GSUSA troop of TEN junior girl-scouts.  Why the interest?  Among the several BSA advantages discussed elsewhere in Scouter.com (greater outdoor challenges, perceived prestige of Eagle vs. Gold Award, etc.), two stand out as fatal impediments to this troop of Juniors moving on to Cadettes:

  1. Their leadership, primarily mothers, are resistant to the perceived expenditures in tents, stoves, cook-sets, etc. required to support outdoor overnighters; and
  2. These same leaders are at best reluctant and at worst fearful of employing the equipment, even if they possessed it, because they have no experience or training in how to use it.

As 5th-grade Juniors, these girls will be moving on to middle-school soon, so its a natural time for their leadership to begin evaluating the next step in their program.  Unfortunately for the GSUSA but fortunately for my BSA linked-troop, these leaders are highly supportive of their girls' ambitions but have no appetite for the investment in time and treasure that it will take to fulfill them. My female ASM heard about the murmurs and approached the leaders about our program:  "THAT sounds like the answer!" was the reply and tonight we'll gauge how ambitious their girls are for a meaningful outdoor experience.  Opportunity knocks.

Although I'm heartened as Scoutmaster of this linked-troop, I'm also a bit dismayed as I'm also the father of a GSUSA Gold-Award recipient.  As I've said many times, if the GSUSA had marketed an outdoor program in general and their Gold Award in particular as effectively as they've promoted Thin Mints and Do-Si-Doe's we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Edited by AltadenaCraig
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12 minutes ago, AltadenaCraig said:
  • These same leaders are at best reluctant and at worst fearful of employing the equipment, even if they possessed it, because they have no experience or training in how to use it.

Good for you!

You could mention to those GSUSA leaders that if their girls become active in a BSA troop, they (the adults) could become SMs or ASMs and do the IOLS training, which would give them some experience and training in precisely the kind of outdoor skills they would need to become minimally competent (and to understand what it is that the kids need when they are working on Tenderfoot -> First Class requirements).

Many of the BSA training courses are utter rubbish, but IOLS is not. It's really the heart and soul of a "trained leader" (which is supposedly what "every scout deserves"...)

Info about what's covered by IOLS:
https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/training/pdf/IOLS_33640_2016.pdf 

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Although being an outdoor focused program is an advantage BSA has over GSUSA for girls interested in the outdoors, I think the real advantage BSA has that you're exploiting is structural.  

It's always seemed to me that GSUSA' s failure to build institutional knowledge and experience into its units was its real weakness.  For most BSA units, hopefully including your linked troop, there is a cadre of leaders who have been with the program past the time when their own sons, and soon daughters, have aged out, and that experience is passed on and used by new leaders coming up.  No leader coming up with their kids through the Cub program thinks they need to be THE person who understands how to take their troop into the outdoors a couple weeks after crossover.  GSUSA's unit structure, at least as I've seen it from the outside, just doesn't provide anything like this.

And this would matter whether you wanted to have an outdoors focused program or any other program focus..  

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45 minutes ago, AltadenaCraig said:

Tonight my small linked-troop of five registered scouts will be visited-upon by a GSUSA troop of TEN junior girl-scouts.

 

46 minutes ago, AltadenaCraig said:

As 5th-grade Juniors, these girls will be moving on to middle-school soon, so its a natural time for their leadership to begin evaluating the next step in their program.  Unfortunately for the GSUSA but fortunately for my BSA linked-troop, these leaders are highly supportive of their girls' ambitions but have no appetite for the investment in time and treasure that it will take to fulfill them. My female ASM heard about the murmurs and approached the leaders about our program:  "THAT sounds like the answer!" was the reply and tonight we'll gauge how ambitious their girls are for a meaningful outdoor experience.  Opportunity knocks.

I also have thought that the Junior-Girl-Scout to Scouts-BSA is a great logical procession.

GSUSA's Brownie and Junior program,  at least if run in a traditionalist sort of way,  has one very appealing advantage over cub scouts:  the emphasis on "girl led" in an elementary-school sort of way, where the girls are encouraged to begin making decisions and carrying them out.

I could certainly see families wanting to do Brownies and Juniors, and then planning to cross over into Scouts BSA at the end of 5th grade.

(It's almost what my daughter did, but she had to wait a little for Scouts BSA for girls to launch.)

P.S. Last weekend, while out camping with a Scouts BSA girls troop,  we had opportunity to watch cub scout pack camping in action.  (The main path at the camp went right by their site).   It was eye opening.  The boys were all playing in the woods while the dads were breaking camp.   Quite a contrast to what Brownie/Junior camping used to be -- a GS trainer explained it this way "I'm going to teach you how to camp with 20 little girls and have them do all the work."

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50 minutes ago, T2Eagle said:

It's always seemed to me that GSUSA' s failure to build institutional knowledge and experience into its units was its real weakness. 

At first blush I agree.  When I followed my son into our troop a dozen years ago I was mentored by our SM and ASM's and allowed to grow into an ASM role at my own pace.  These GSUSA mothers, on the other hand, are sensing they'll be thrown right into the deep-end (to mix metaphors) if they're to provide a meaningful experience to their girls as Cadettes.

Nevertheless, back in the day, before the GSUSA allowed their program to ignore the outdoor component, somehow their structural model DID work.  I'd be curious to your thoughts about what might have made up for the lack of institutional knowledge among successful GSUSA troops in the past?  Meantime I'm more inclined to point the finger at their lack of mandatory outdoor training than their structural model.

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10 minutes ago, AltadenaCraig said:

Nevertheless, back in the day, before the GSUSA allowed their program to ignore the outdoor component, somehow their structural model DID work.  I'd be curious to your thoughts about what might have made up for the lack of institutional knowledge among successful GSUSA troops in the past?

A long generation back, troops (at least the ones I saw) did have institutional knowledge.  While Brownie troops were only two grades (2nd-3rd), the older troops were three grades (Juniors 4th-6th,  Cadettes 7th-9th, Seniors 10th-12th).  When the daughter of a troop leader-mom moved up a level, her mom moved up a level also, typically becoming an assistant troop leader at the next level for a couple of years, before moving into the troop leader role her daughter's third year in the troop.   

This meant that troops were large,  maybe 30+ girls,  even at the Brownie stage.

And there was not a troop committee supporting the troop, so the troop leaders had a lot of work divided between a few women doing the work.

What has done in the model?  Two things:

1) Women entered payed employment, and did not have the time for a very time-consuming volunteer job.  Hence the tiny single-grade troops meeting infrequents, which we have now.

2) Kids are no longer expected to learn how to behave well in large groups.  (The public schools no longer train them to do so.) So having 30 second, third, or fourth graders in a group, supervising by two or three moms, no longer works very well.

 

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I didn't give it much thought at the time, but back in February several of the girls that were joining from GSUSA were mesmerized by the equipment cage and trailers of the boys troop and the crew. The new girls troop has access to borrow from those cages until they build up their own. Quartermaster was the single most sought after position. 

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I also think there's the weakness within the GSUSA of leaders kinda getting expected to handle 12 years of running a unit all the way from kindergarten through to high school. But the skills and needs of an elementary unit are very different from a high school one. With the BSA, there's a bit more specialization.

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From my experience the problem is the younger girls are really restricted in what they can do outdoors, no over night camping or watercraft until brownie (wolf age) and no tent camping until they're Juniors (weblos) so if you are an outdoors camping inclined leader you're bored for several years and will most likely leave, leaving the crafting cookie crew running the troops building seniority and moving on to greater unit and council wide positions. Very few district level people I've met were "outdoorsy". 

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14 minutes ago, malraux said:

I also think there's the weakness within the GSUSA of leaders kinda getting expected to handle 12 years of running a unit all the way from kindergarten through to high school. But the skills and needs of an elementary unit are very different from a high school one. With the BSA, there's a bit more specialization.

Well, maybe. I have been a Tiger Cub Den leader, Bear Den Leader, Webelos Den Leader (through AOL), Advancement coordinator, Assistant Scoutmaster,  Merit Badge Counselor and Eagle Project advisor.  That's not too non-typical in BSA. 

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Just now, perdidochas said:

Well, maybe. I have been a Tiger Cub Den leader, Bear Den Leader, Webelos Den Leader (through AOL), Advancement coordinator, Assistant Scoutmaster,  Merit Badge Counselor and Eagle Project advisor.  That's not too non-typical in BSA. 

Yeah, I'll probably follow the same path. But it does channel into larger and larger units. i.e. the den leader has to watch ~8 kids, while the SM/asm is more working on monitoring 20ish kids.

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5 minutes ago, PinkPajamas said:

From my experience the problem is the younger girls are really restricted in what they can do outdoors, no over night camping or watercraft until brownie (wolf age) and no tent camping until they're Juniors (weblos)

Not the rules I've seen!  Is it council specific?

We took 2nd graders (platform)-tent camping.  And we did not require the mothers of the girls to come along.

My daisy co-leader did not want to camp, so our daisies did not camp.  But I know of some who did backyard tent overnights for the daisies.

 

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19 minutes ago, malraux said:

Yeah, I'll probably follow the same path. But it does channel into larger and larger units. i.e. the den leader has to watch ~8 kids, while the SM/asm is more working on monitoring 20ish kids.

Depends on the troop.

My son's troop has a SM who is riding herd on over 70 scouts.  A nearby troop in our district recently had over 100 scouts. I know of a troop in our council with almost 200 scouts.

Of course there are also struggling troops with 10 scouts....and I feel bad when those boys come to our troop because their home troop doesn't have the support or resources to offer the strong program of outdoor activities needed to support healthy advancement.

I think the "ideal" troop size would be about 30...

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9 hours ago, AltadenaCraig said:

Tonight my small linked-troop of five registered scouts will be visited-upon by a GSUSA troop of TEN junior girl-scouts.

We will want the report:  will they join en masse?

What we have seen around here in GSUSA is a huge attrition somewhere around 4th/5th/6th grade.   The majority of the kids quit scouting, and only a small fraction fold into the local "older girl" troop for grades 6-12, after the troop they have been with since kindergarten disbands.   I don't know how much is because the current Cadette/Senior/Ambassador program is unappealing, and how much is that the girls become interested in other activities. So if you get even 4 or 5 of this troop joining Scouts BSA, that is a good yield.

Make sure they know they have the option of staying together as a patrol within your Scouts BSA troop.  (The friend-group issue can be very important).

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If I had a dollar for every GS who visited our crew complaining about our troop but not making any change ....

Not trying to be cynical, I just hope you are able to help these girls develop a program that suits them.

Real commitment is real commitment, no matter how you slice it.

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