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 both 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 in both traditional and non-traditional programs, including adults, is approximately 3.6 million (BSA apparently no longer reports adult numbers in their annual report to Congress, as far as I could find). Overall membership declined 14% in 2015.
The BSA offers four traditional Scouting programs based on grade or age (Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Venturing, Sea Scouts), a new STEM Scouts program, plus two non-traditional subsidiaries (Learning for Life, Exploring). Membership numbers are from the 2015 BSA Annual Report to Congress.
Cub Scouting (boys, Kindergarten through grade 5)
Members in Kindergarten (or age 5) are call Lions or Lion Cub Scouts. This new program is still under development and is not yet available in all Councils. Note that this is unrelated to the former Cub Scout Lion rank, which was discontinued in 1967.
Members in grade 1 are now called Cub Scouts (formerly Tiger Cubs), and work on the Tiger rank.
Members in grades 2 and 3 are called Cub Scouts, and work on the 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 around 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 12/31/2015, Cub Scout youth membership was 1 261 340, an 11% decline during 2015.
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 one or more crews to do high adventure activities. Older Scouts used to be called Venture Scouts, but BSA has apparently discontinued using this term due to the name's confusing similarity to the unrelated Venturing program (see below).
Boy Scouts work on 7 ranks: Scout (new rank as of 1 January 2016), Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle. Eagle Scouts can also earn Eagle Palms, but these are not ranks.
[The new 'Scout' rank, with significantly expanded requirements, replaces the former 'Scout Badge', which represented the joining requirements and was never a rank.]
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.
The average troop has about 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 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
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.
The average team has only about 8 youth members.
As of 12/31/2015, overall youth membership in Boy Scouting (Boy Scouts + Varsity Scouts) totaled 840 657, a 5% decline during 2015.
The former career-awareness Exporing program is now part of Learning for Life (see below).
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 awards system, culminating with the Summit Award (which replaced the Venturing Silver Award in 2014).
BSA's Venturing program 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. The adult leader is called the Venturing Advisor.
The key youth leader of a Venturing crew is the elected crew President.
Sea Scouts (young men and young women, age about 14 until 21)
Started as Sea Scouting in 1912, it changed its name to Sea Exploring, then back to Sea Scouting in 1998. It was part of the Venturing program from 1998 to 2016, and now has become an independent program section.
Sea Scouts have their own advancement program, culminating with the Quartermaster award, although male Sea Scouts can also earn the Eagle award the same way male Venturers can.
Adult leaders can be male or female, over age 21. The adult leader is called the Skipper, and adult assistants are called Mates.
The key youth leader of a Sea Scout ship is the elected Boatswain.
As of 12/31/2015, Venturing and Sea Scouting youth membership totaled 142 892, a 26% decline during 2015.
Non-traditional BSA program separate from other BSA programs
Coed, for grades 3-12; grouped by elementary, middle, and high school ages
Currently in expanded pilot phase in 13 Councils (out of about 300 Councils)
Meets weekly with monthly field trips; de-emphasizes outdoor program and focuses on STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math), with 4- to 6-week learning modules
Meetings open with the Scout Oath and Scout Law
No rank advancement, but offers "electronic badges" for participation and achievement
$200/person/year flat cost
Apparently no uniform, but a T-shirt is available
Learning for Life (LFL)
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.
As of 12/31/2015, Learning for Life youth membership totaled 385 535.
Exploring is a non-traditional, coed, work-site-based program, for ages 10 to 20.
Explorers are not required to adhere to the Scout Oath or Law, and membership is open to any youth subject to the age restrictions.
Note that what was for many years called "Exploring" is now generally covered in the Venturing program.
As of 12/31/2015, Exploring youth membership totaled 110 445.
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 based on grade or age (at least one Tiger den, Wolf den, Bear den, first-year Webelos den, and second-year Webelos den; plus a Lion den for packs operating in the Lion development program). 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.
Sea Scouts belong to a ship.
Learning for Life participants belong to a group, and Explorers belong to a post.
Unit identification (pack, troop, etc) is more confusing in the US than in many countries. Outside the US, units often 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" approach, 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.
Age Requirements/Advancement/Highest Awards—
Cub Scouting (Cub Scouts [including former Tiger Cubs], Webelos Scouts)