Understanding the Girl Scouts Organization
The Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is a youth organization for girls founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low. It aims to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. The Girl Scouts offer programming in STEM, the outdoors, life skills, entrepreneurship, and more to girls in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Girl Scouts follow a specific set of ideals, including the Girl Scout Law, Promise, and motto. They participate in badge work, sell Girl Scout cookies, go camping, and complete community service projects. Troops usually consist of girls in the same grade level who meet weekly under the guidance of volunteer troop leaders.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a separate youth organization for boys founded in 1910. While the two organizations share some similarities in providing opportunities for youth development, they have always remained independent.
Reasons for Gender-Specific Programming
The Girl Scouts is a girl-only space by design. When it was founded over 100 years ago, girls had minimal options for extracurricular activities. GSUSA gave them a place to build confidence and skills.
Even today, research suggests all-girl spaces allow for:
- Freedom from gender stereotypes – Girls can express themselves fully without feeling judged. They are free to be silly, get dirty, try non-traditional activities, take on leadership roles, etc. without boys potentially acting dismissive.
- Positive risk-taking – Girls feel comfortable taking risks and failing around other girls, helping them build resilience. Coed spaces can exacerbate girls’ fear of failure.
- Connection through shared experiences – Girls bond over common experiences like gender discrimination, puberty, and societal beauty expectations. This builds solidarity.
- Learning styles tailored to girls – Activities can focus on relationship-building, creativity, and collaboration in ways that tend to appeal more to girls.
- Focus on traditionally male-dominated fields – Away from comparisons to boys, girls feel empowered tackling STEM, sports, finance, and more.
- Female role models and mentors – Girls benefit from bonds with women leaders outside their family.
- Leadership opportunities – Girls have ample chances to take on leadership roles within their troop.
While girls can also find confidence in coed spaces, research shows the benefits of some gender-specific programming tailored just for them.
Can Boys Join Girl Scouts?
Given its origin and mission as a space designed for girls, the Girl Scouts does not currently allow boys to join as girl members. When a youth wishes to join Girl Scouts, they check the “girl” box on the application form.
However, since 2016, the GSUSA has allowed both boys and girls to participate through some offerings:
- Friends and family members of Girl Scouts can buy Girl Scout cookies and other merchandise.
- Volunteers of any gender over 18 can become troop leaders or assist in other roles like camp counselors after completing a background check.
- Boys who identify as girls are welcome to join as full Girl Scout members.
- Both boys and girls can join some special programs like Girl Scouts’ grade-specific STEM activities.
So while boys cannot become traditional Girl Scouts members, they can participate in select Girl Scout activities. The core troop experiences remain girl-only.
Alternative Activities for My Son
While your son cannot join a Girl Scouts troop, some alternative activities exist:
Join Boy Scouts
The BSA offers similar youth development programs for boys focused on values, leadership, and outdoors skills. Boy Scouts members go camping, earn merit badges, and complete service projects. Many of the activities mirror those Girl Scouts do like woodworking, first aid, business skills, environmental stewardship, etc. This allows your son to have a parallel scouting experience.
Explore coed scouting organizations
Some coed scouting organizations welcome both boys and girls. For example:
- Camp Fire allows boys and girls grades K-12 to join their programs in leadership, service, nature exploration, and more.
- Navigators USA has coed scouting for ages 5 to 21 with an inclusive environment.
- Scouts BSA welcomed girls into their core programs in 2019. Their troops remain single-gender but overall coed.
- American Heritage Girls welcomes both girls and boys focused on Christian values.
So your son has options to gain scouting experiences through coed alternatives.
Participate in Girl Scout activities open to boys
As mentioned, some Girl Scout programs now include boys so look for local opportunities. Possibilities include:
- STEM days, overnights, festivals etc. that teach science, technology, engineering, and math skills
- Outdoor adventures like learning about wildlife conservation
- Entrepreneurship events like product design workshops
- Other special programs related to travel, healthy living, financial literacy etc. that welcome boys
Check with your local Girl Scout council to see if any upcoming activities accept boys. This allows your son to get a taste of the Girl Scouts experience.
Volunteer with Girl Scouts
Parents, grandparents, older siblings etc. can become Girl Scout volunteers. Consider volunteering with your daughter’s troop or a local Service Unit. This allows your son to experience Girl Scouts through the lens of an adult leader. He’ll learn about their programming while supporting the overall mission.
The Bottom Line
The Girl Scouts remains committed to providing girl-focused programming shaped by their specific needs and interests. However, some opportunities now exist for boys to engage with the organization in limited capacities.
Consider coed scouting alternatives, specialized Girl Scout activities open to male participation, and volunteering as ways your son can benefit from the spirit of scouting. His involvement will help build an appreciation for all Girl Scouts do to empower the next generation of girls.