Here are the basics about the Boy Scouts of America:
Boy Scouts of America or BSA
Founded on 8 February 1910, in Washington, DC, by Chicago publisher William Boyce
Chartered by the US Congress in 1916 (a few other youth programs have congressional charters, including the Civil Air Patrol , Girl Scouts of the USA , the Boys & Girls Clubs of America , Future Farmers of America [??], and 4-H [??])
Headquarters in Irving, Texas (near Dallas)
The BSA is the USA's only Boy Scouting organization recognized by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (many countries have several Scouting programs).
The BSA actually provides the Scouting program to three countries: the US plus the Pacific island nations of the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, which are served by Hawaii's Aloha Council.
The BSA is divided into about 300 local Councils.
The BSA and its local Councils employ about 4000 full-time professional staff.
The BSA is the second largest Scouting organization in the world (the largest is Indonesia).
Total membership (from a March 2011 Fact Sheet on the BSA website, although its information varies slightly from other numbers on the BSA website) (12/31/2010) was 3 630 779 (2 588 326 youth and 1 042 453 adults). This does not include membership in the school-based Learning for Life subsidiary of the BSA, but does count 666 Lone Scouts and 43 310 adult Council Scouters.
The BSA has four program divisions, three traditional Scouting programs based on grade or age, plus a fourth classroom-based non-traditional subsidiary:
Cub Scouting Division (boys, grades 1 through 5)
Members in grade 1 are called Tiger Cubs.
Members in grades 2 and 3 are called Cub Scouts, and work on Wolf rank (grade 2) or Bear rank (grade 3).
Members in grades 4 and 5 are called Webelos Scouts, and work on the Webelos rank and the Arrow of Light rank.
Webelos Scouts usually graduate into Boy Scouting in about February of grade 5.
The overall Cub Scouting program is family-centered, adult-run, and offers very little camping or outdoor activities.
Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for certain assistant positions). The leader of the pack is the Cubmaster, and each den is led by an adult Den Leader.
The only boy leadership position is Denner, rotated monthly among the den members, which consists mostly of helping the Den Leader and making a den report at the monthly pack meeting.
As of 12/31/2010, Cub Scout youth membership included 226 211 Tiger Cubs, 707 868 Cub Scouts, and 573 522 Webelos Scouts, for a total of 1 507 601, a one-year loss of 7.8%. There are 47 259 packs, with an average size of 32 youth members. And there are 421 405 adult Cub Scout leaders.
Boy Scouting Division (boys, age about 10-1/2 until 18)
Two programs—Boy Scouting and Varsity Scouting
Boy Scouting is traditional Scouting for boys age approximately 10-1/2 until 18.
In addition to the general camping program for all Scouts, older Scouts in a troop can form a Venture patrol to do high adventure activities. Note that the troop's Venture patrol and Venturing (see below) are completely separate and unrelated programs, despite the confusingly similar names.
Boy Scouts work on 6 ranks: Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle. Eagle Scouts can also earn Eagle Palms, but these are not ranks.
The overall Boy Scouting program is mostly boy-run with adults providing guidance and training, and is strongly oriented toward a camping and outdoor program.
At about age 14, a Boy Scout can choose to remain in the troop, or transfer to a Varsity team, or transfer to a Venturing crew.
Adult troop leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for Assistant Scoutmasters). The adult leader of the troop is the Scoutmaster.
The boy leader of the troop is the elected Senior Patrol Leader, and each patrol is led by an elected boy Patrol Leader.
As of 12/31/2010, Boy Scouting membership included 792 202 youth members and 493 852 adult leaders. There are 40 099 troops, with an average size of 20 youth members.
Varsity Scouting is a separate, optional, non-coed, and little-used program for boys age 14 until 18 (mostly used by the LDS/Mormon church).
Varsity Scouts wear the same uniform as Boy Scouts (with slightly different insignia), and work on the same ranks.
Varsity Scouts typically camp like Boy Scouts, and often compete in team sports.
Adult team leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for Assistant Coaches). The adult leader of the team is the Coach.
The boy leader of the team is the elected Team Captain, and each squad is led by an elected squad leader.
As of 12/31/2010, Varsity Scouting membership included 59 863 youth members and 22 806 adult leaders. There are 8539 teams, with an average size of only 7 youth members.
As of 12/31/2010, overall youth membership in the Boy Scouting Division (Boy Scouts + Varsity Scouts) totaled 852 065, a one-year loss of 5.1%.
Sea Scouting (formerly Sea Exploring) is part of the Venturing program.
The former career-awareness Exporing program is now part of Learning for Life.
Male Venturers can work on the same ranks as Boy Scouts (technically, they must earn the ranks through First Class as a member of a Boy Scout troop). In addition, all Venturers have their own advancement system, culminating with the Venturing Silver Award. And Sea Scouts have an additional advancement program, culminating with the Quartermaster award.
BSA's Venturing Division is unusual compared to the equivalent programs in most other countries because high-school-aged young men have the option of being a Venturer, or they can remain in a Scout troop or join a Varsity team.
There is no BSA program equivalent to the Rover programs available in some countries (for those over age 21).
Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21 (age 18-20 for associate Advisors). The adult leader is called the Venturing Advisor.
The key youth leader of a Venturing crew is the elected crew President.
As of 12/31/2010, Venturing youth membership totaled 227 994, a one-year loss of 11.4%. There are 18 856 crews, with an average size of 12 youth members. Female youth membership is 31% of the total. And there are 61 080 adult Venturing leaders.
Two programs—Learning for Life (school-based programs) and Exploring (work-site-based program)
Learning for Life is a non-traditional, coed, classroom-based character education program, with programs set up by grade:
Seekers (K-grade 2)
Discoverers (grades 3 and 4)
Challengers (grades 5 and 6)
Champions (special needs)
Builders (grades 7 and 8)
Navigators (high school)
LFL members are not required to adhere to the Scout Oath or Law, and membership is open to any youth subject to the age restrictions.
Exploring is the branch of Learning for Life that focuses on workplace-based and career-oriented interests for high-school-aged youth. Note that what was for many years called "Exploring" is now generally covered in the Venturing program.
Goal is to help young people develop skills, positive attitudes, values, and career awareness.
Learning for Life apparently no longer reports its membership numbers.
Provides special leadership and assistance to councils, with focus on minority involvement (African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans/Latinos), single parents, and juvenile diversion.
Names and Numbers
While the Girl Scouts of the USA call all their units troops, the BSA identifies its units by the program they conduct:
Cub Scouts belong to a pack, which is divided into several dens (at least one Tiger den, Wolf den, Bear den, first-year Webelos den, and second-year Webelos den). Webelos dens may also choose to call themselves patrols and adopt a patrol name instead of a den number.
Boy Scouts belong to a troop, which is divided into several patrols.
Varsity Scouts belong to a team, which is divided into several squads.
Venturers belong to a crew, and Sea Scouts belong to a ship.
Learning for Life participants belong to a group.
Unit identification (pack, troop, etc) is more confusing in the US than in most countries. Outside the US, units usually are part of a Scouting "group". Each group would include one or more program "sections" such as a pack, a troop, and a crew. The group would have a number associated with its town or area (such as the 2nd Brixton Scout Group), and often all group members wear a common neckerchief. In the US, which doesn't use the "group" concept, each pack, troop, etc, is separately numbered, and there is no link to the unit's location. For example, in our town, there is a Pack 97 and a Troop 97, which are unrelated and meet at separate locations. And, since unit numbers are repeated in each of the 300+ local Scout Councils, there could be 300 (or more) Troop 97's in the US. Actually, due to the many Scout Council mergers over the past 25 years (there used to be over 500 Councils), some Councils (like ours) could have two Troop 97's.