With the times

Photo ProvidedMicah Stearns talks with two Scouts at an outing. One local Scout leader, Parker Arnholt, wants everyone to know that even though the group is changing with the times, it's also still the same old Scouts.

DANVILLE — It has been a big month in the world of scouting.

Boy Scouts of America not only turned 108 years old, but it also saw an official name change this month when girls joined its ranks.

One local Scout leader, Parker Arnholt, wants everyone to know that even though the group is changing with the times, it's also still the same old Scouts.

There's a ton of activities to participate in, such as the April Trail Trump — at Camp Drake — and its annual Pine Wood Derby.

"The big things we try to hit on are the BB guns, the archery; the fun things," the 23-year-old district executive said of telling children about things to do in Scouts. "Canoeing, kayaking, learning about nature, the ecology program. Some kids really enjoy camping — you've got a camp ground right here in your back yard."

"We had a 'Rocket Into Scouting,' motto one year. You show a kid a model rocket in a gymnasium and they all go crazy."

Arnholt grew up in Scouting, graduated college in 2017, and went to work for the Scouts.

One of the things he's seen change since his childhood days is an adaptation of the merit badge program to be able to give kids an opportunity to learn about new technologies that are happening.

This now includes programs in robotics, chemistry and video game design.

The Scouts now also have online training to help with adult leadership — who usually have work and kids in their lives — to be able to more easily learn the tools they need to provide a quality program.

There's also now a website called Scoutbook and a Scouting app to help see where the individual stands in earning badges.

"When I was a kid, I had to ask my Scoutmaster," Arnholt said. "'Tim, what do I need to do?' He'd have it on his computer through software. Now every kid has a phone and they can see, 'Well, I'm a Tenderfoot, and I need to do X, Y and Z in order to get to the second class.'"

This helps parents stay more involved, too.

One of the more controversial recent decisions was to allow girls to join, which also spurred the name change.

"The misconception is the Boy Scouts is going co-ed," Arnholt said. "It really isn't. Within the pack, each grade level has a den. Those are staying a boy den and a girl den."

The name change is involved in the age-level groups. It used to be Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers. Now it's Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA and Venturers.

It is the Scouts BSA where the change occurs. That program — for 11- to 17-year-olds — is where there are now troops for girls.

Arnholt said there's a handful of girls already participating in Vermilion County, but there are many more in the Champaign area.

The Venturing group — ages 14 to 20 — is, however, co-ed.

Councilwide, he estimates there are nearly 300 girls participating — of those, 50 are in the local Many Trails district.

Girls that have joined have so far been mostly siblings of members, but the Scouts have been doing an outreach through the schools to inform girls of the option.

To ease parents' concerns of what could happen when you have both male and female Scouts together, Arnholt said the group revamped the youth protection training. All leaders have to have it.

It encompasses an hour-and-a-half session — online or in person — that explains sexual harassment, the importance of sleeping arrangements and other factors involving allowing girls to join.

Each unit that has girls in it must have at least one female registered leader; for any outing, there must be one as well.

It's a pretty big step for an organization that turned 108 this year.

Along with that big anniversary is the annual Blue and Gold ceremony in which groups mark another year of Scouting and the fifth-graders move up to the next level.

And as any of those fifth-graders will tell you, outdoors skills are still a major part of the Scouts.

"Core requirements have not changed," Arnholt said. "They have not changed since I've been in it. They've tweeked some little things, but main program is the same Boy Scout program."

FYI

Learn more at www.scouting.org and www.CampDrake.com.

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