Scouting isn't just a fun outdoor program. As Baden-Powell said, it's a game with a purpose. The Boy Scouts of America expresses that purpose as three general aims. To carry out those aims, Scout troops use eight methods, the combination of which makes Scouting unique.
The information and explanations below are taken from the BSA's Scoutmaster Handbook (copyright 1998).
Aims of Scouting
Mental and Physical Fitness
Methods of Scouting
According to the Scoutmaster's Handbook, "The Boy Scouts of America uses eight fundamental methods to meet boys' hope for fun and adventure, and to achieve Scouting's aims of encouraging character development, citizenship, and mental and physical fitness. A Scout troop functions best when all eight methods are employed." [italics mine]
The ideals of the Boy Scouts of America are spelled out in the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan. Boy Scouts and adult leaders incorporating these ideals into their daily lives are said to have Scout spirit. Scout meetings and Scouting activities reinforce the ideals of Scouting through the message of a Scoutmaster's Minute and in the form of new understandings the Scouts discover for themselves.
Within the larger community of the troop, the patrol is a Scout's "family circle." Often made up of boys who are close in age and experience level, each patrol helps its members develop a sense of pride and identity. The boys themselves elect their patrol leader, divide up the jobs to be done, and share in the satisfaction of accepting and fulfilling group responsibilities.
Boys join Scouting for the challenge, the excitement, and the fun. Much of Scouting is designed to take place outdoors in settings where boys can find real adventure. Outdoor activities put the sizzle into Scouting. They keep boys coming back for more. A troop with a strong outdoor program is well on its way to finding success in all areas.
The Boy Scouts of America believes that a boy should receive recognition for his achievements. The requirements for the ranks of Tenderfoot through First Class prepare boys to take full advantage of all that Scouting has to offer. Earning merit badges allows them to explore many fields, helps them round out their skills, and perhaps introduces them to subjects that will become lifelong interests and rewarding careers. In addition, advancement sets a pattern of setting positive goals and reaching them throughout life. Star, Life, and Eagle requirements focus on service to others and developing leadership skills. As one of the eight methods of Scouting, advancement is a natural outcome of the other seven. A boy whose Scouting experience introducing him to the BSA ideals, the patrol method, the outdoors, association with adults, personal growth, leadership development, and the uniform will almost certainly find himself moving steadily along the BSA's advancement trail.
Association with Adults
Boys learn a great deal by watching how adults conduct themselves. Scout leaders can be positive role models for the members of their troops. In many cases a Scoutmaster who is willing to listen to boys, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives.
Scout-age boys are experiencing dramatic physical and emotional growth. Scouting offers them opportunities to channel much of that change into productive endeavors and to find the answers they are seeking for many of their questions. Through service projects and Good Turns, Scouts can discover their place in the community. Many Scouting activities allow boys to associate with boys from different backgrounds. The religious emblems program offers pathways for Scouts to more deeply understand their place in the world . The troop itself provides each Scout with an arena in which to explore, to try out new ideas, and sometimes simply to embark on adventures with no design other than having a good time with good people.
Leadership is a skill that can be learned only by doing it. Every boy in a patrol and troop will find that he is filling leadership positions of increasing responsibility. Through leadership experiences, boys learn planning, organization, and decision making. For many boys, accepting the role of patrol leader is the first real leadership opportunity they have ever had. Discovering that they can do the job will go a long way toward giving them the confidence and ability to be leaders in the future.
Since 1910, the Boy Scout uniform has been a recognizable part of the American scene. Wearing the uniform helps boys develop a sense of belonging to their patrol and troop. It reinforces the fact that all members of the BSA are equal to one another. People seeing a boy in a Scout uniform expect someone of good character who is prepared to the best of his ability to help those around him. Likewise, Scoutmasters in full uniform set a good example for members of their troops and are also seen as community leaders fulfilling a very important role.
BSA Mission Statement
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.