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Boy Scout Troop 1570
(Herndon, Virginia)
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New to Scouting?

Boys may join Boy Scouts of America as a continuation of their boy scout trail from cub scouts (ages 7-11) — this is where the majority of boy scouts come from. But, the age of 11 is a great time for a new boy to begin scouting! The Boy Scout program is a big change from cub scouting, the biggest change being that it is boy- led instead of adult- led. If you have boys graduating from Webelos in cub scouts, and joining a boy scout troop, challenge them to invite at least one non-scouting friend to join them. 3/4 of Scouting is 'outing', 11-year-old boys are excited about opportunities for camping, hiking, and the outdoors that Boy Scouts offers.

Boy Scouts is for boys aged 11 through 17. When the 18th birthday is reached, he can no longer be a boy scout, but he can continue to support a troop in an adult leader role. As a scout grows in skill, he takes on responsibility and moves from being a learner to being a leader.

The Boy Scout program has an organizational structure that puts boys into groups called patrols, with a recommended size of from 6 to 8 scouts per patrol. Patrols of boys in a community form a troop which is part of a district. Districts combine to make a council, Troop 1570 is part of the Powhatan District (Herndon/Reston area) within the National Capital Area Council (metro Washington, DC area).

A new scout first earns the Scout rank showing that he has joined and is participating in the program. As he enjoys outings with his patrol and demonstrates his expanding skill base, he naturally gains the Tenderfoot rank, followed by 2nd Class and 1st Class ranks. At this point, a scout has learned enough skills to handle himself in the outdoors and begin teaching new scouts. Once a 1st Class rank is reached, to reach a higher rank the scout continues his trail by performing service deeds and earning merit badges in topics that interest him or that he has decided to explore.

Choosing the right Boy Scout troop for you is an individual decision. Troops vary in their activity focus, and the personalities in each troop differ. You need to think about what will make scouting a fun, rewarding experience for you and then find a troop that appears to best fulfill your needs.

If you're a Webelos scout, having completed five years of Cub Scouts, you may feel that you've experienced all there is in the program. You have experienced a lot, but Boy Scouts is a very different program full of new experiences. Make a commitment to try it for a year to observe the differences and then decide if you want to continue on.

A boy needs to visit at least one troop meeting before joining Boy Scouts. You really should visit several troops to learn the uniqueness of each. Select a troop that fits the needs of your family.

When you visit troops, try to get answers to these important questions to help you decide on a home troop:

  • How many registered scouts? (30-50 is generally recognized as a good troop size, but there are many larger and smaller troops)
  • How many of those registered scouts are active? (some troops have lots of names on the roster, but many fewer scouts actually participating. Count how many are at the meeting you visit and if it doesn't match what you are told, visit again before deciding to join.)
  • How many assistant Scoutmasters, Committee members, other troop positions? (a strong troop committee recruits adult leadership, maintains accurate troop financial and advancement records, encourages leader training, welcomes new members, and supports the activity plans created by the scouts. Assistant Scoutmasters are needed to support scout advancement, provide oversight of all troop events, and offer instruction and encouragement to scouts. One assistant Scoutmaster for every 8-10 scouts is good.)
  • What would a chart of the age distribution of the 'active' scouts look like? (many 11-12 year olds with few older scouts indicates a troop that is either recently growing or is having problems keeping scouts interested and active as they advance. The presence of older scouts indicates a healthy troop – the program is exciting and challenging for them, and the younger scouts benefit from their mentoring and example as role models.)
  • How many scouts have earned Eagle in the past few years and how many are still active in the troop? (some scouts reach Eagle and stop participating. Hearing that scouts stay in the troop until the age out at 18 indicates a strong program.)
  • How are the patrols organized? (new scouts should be kept together to start, then either continue on as their own patrol or get integrated into existing multi-age patrols.)
  • What goes on in troop meetings? (you should see this when you visit. Some troops spend most troop meetings doing merit badge work - this is not the BSA model for merit badges. Some troops run around in chaos at meetings. The agenda for each meeting should be prepared and run by the Senior Patrol Leader; the meeting should not be adult-led. Meetings should have an opening, time for scout skills, fun time, planning for events, a scoutmaster minute, and closing. The key thing is that you should see the troop being run by the scouts, not the scoutmaster or other adults - even if it seems inefficient.)
  • What service projects does the troop do? (service is a key part of scouting. There should be many opportunities for service throughout the year.)
  • How is the rank advancement managed? (There should be support in place for new scouts to advance up to First Class. The most important thing you should hear is that the troop has good Troop Guides for the new scouts. These are helpful scouts in a leadership position tasked with guiding new scouts in their first year. Some troops force-feed advancement up to First Class in a new scout's first year while others let the scout flounder with no direction - both tend to lose scouts.)
  • How are Merit Badges managed? (the BSA merit badge program is intended for scouts to seek out and complete merit badges that interest them, as well as 12 required badges for Eagle rank. A troop that spends their troop meeting time on merit badges is not following the program. Scouts need to take responsibility to select merit badges and complete them with a merit badge counselor advising and guiding them.)
  • How is troop leadership managed? (The troop should really be 'boy-led'. Every troop will say it is 'boy-run' or 'boy-led', but you need to see if that is true. Who is in front of the troop? Who is corraling the scouts to start the next activity? Who is teaching? What are the older scouts doing? These should all be scouts in leadership roles. A Senior Patrol Leader runs the meetings with assistance from his Assistant Senior Patrol Leader. Every patrol has a Patrol Leader responsible for leading his group of 6-8 scouts. These scouts should meet every month to plan upcoming activities. There should be an annual scheduling session where the scouts plan campouts, high adventure trips, and other events for the future.)
  • When and how often does the troop meet? (A troop should have an outing scheduled for every month. Troop meetings should occur on a regular schedule at least twice a month, and preferably three times. Troops should not stop meeting for the summer - the troop meetings should continue but with less expected participation due to family vacations.)
  • How is family communication handled? (email, phone trees, web site - depending on the type of communication and your preferences, any can work. A troop roster should be kept updated and distributed to all scouts.)
  • What camping has the troop done and is planned? Are there opportunities to meet advancement requirements on troop campouts?  (This is probably the big question that will affect your choice since you can relate to the answer with no prior BSA background. There should be a wide range of outing themes, not the same 12 events every year. There should be a week-long summer camp, and an outing every month.  Camping opportunities should be offered for every scout age, rank, and capability.)
  • What high adventure trips have been done recently and are planned? (many troops will rattle off Philmont, Seabase, Northern Tier, and National Jamboree as their high adventures - these are all great trips, but they are very expensive and pretty much a pre-packaged deal. If a troop tells you their scouts are planning a trek in the Rockies, or whitewater rafting, or hiking the Grand Canyon, or some other self-directed high adventure, that shows a broader view of scouting. Ask if the scouts or adults are planning those outings - scouts CAN do much of it, with essential adult leader guidance and administrative support.)
  • What participation and training is expected of parents? (You should expect that parents are needed to make the troop's plans succeed. The most important thing a parent can do is ask the scout how a meeting or outing was and to support him in scouting. Many troops would like each family to help with transportation to 2 or 3 campouts each year, some require less. You should hear that adults are required to complete Youth Protection Training before interacting with the scouts. Troops also need a few adults to take on troop roles each year, such as Asst. Scoutmaster or Committee member - these are required to offer a complete scouting program. They should be expected to complete training for their position.)
  • What fundraising is done?
  • How are the funds managed? Does each scout have his own account?
  • What equipment is provided by the troop and the scout?
  • What uniforms are required?
  • How often are Roundtables attended and by whom? (district roundtable meetings should be held each month and the adult troop leaders should attend to find out district and council information.)

Some additional questions to ask:

  • What district and council events has the troop attended recently or planning to attend?
  • How will new scouts learn what to do as Boy Scouts?
  • How much will a year of scouting cost?
  • How are conflicts between scouting and sports/theater/music/... handled?