Before four young ladies began carving objects from Ivory soap, Theresa Williams wanted to test what they just learned about knife safety.
She grabbed a metal butter knife and placed it on top of the piece of soap, acting like she was going to cut toward her.
“Why shouldn’t I be doing this?” she said to the girls, as all four shot their hands up in the air. Theresa called on kindergartener Caroline Weeks.
“You might cut yourself,” Caroline answered. “You cut away.”
“Good job, how about this?” Theresa said as she inched very close to Caroline’s older sister, second-grader Lorelei.
“You are too close to us and too close to the edge of the table,” Addisyn, Theresa’s daughter and second- grade student, said while holding her arms out and making the motion of the safety circle they just learned during their knife safety training.
After a few more tests, Theresa felt confident the young ladies were ready to practice carving soap, and they were thrilled to get started. For Addisyn, Lorelei and Caroline, this was a fun activity and jumpstart to their knife safety requirement. However, this practice helped third-grader and Bear Scout Rylee Snellen use a real pocketknife to create two carved soap objects at home that will allow her to earn the Whittling Chip Award as part of the 6-month-old Cub Scout Den 9 in Wardsville.
The four-member, all-girl Cub Scout den is in Cub Scout Pack 332 and now joins more than 40 other packs in the Great Rivers Council that have established girl dens under the Boy Scouts of America’s 2018 initiative to open up Cub Scouts to both genders.
Since September, Den 9 has enjoyed participating in the Cubmobile Races last October, went on a nature hike at the Runge Nature Center, explored the outdoors during a couple of campouts, visit the Endangered Wolf Center and learned multiple skills, including most recently carving hearts, miniature beds and sleeping bags, and even a cat’s head out of soap.
These girls are encouraged to learn more about the outdoors and find Cub Scouts provides the tools, resources and community that fulfill that passion.
“We need to know this stuff because it is important to know about God, using a knife safely and not being mean to nature,” Rylee said. “I like being a part of this group because I like that we get to explore and do a lot of stuff. It makes me really happy.”
For many years, parents have seen siblings of their Cub Scout or Boy Scout express interest in the programs since many activities they were experiencing as a family.
“Informally, parents and the Scouts’ little sisters have tagged along for Cub Scout activities for many years. They went on overnight programs, participated in family functions,” said David Harris, field director for the Great Rivers Council. “It is a very family-friendly program, and these girls were often learning the same skills right alongside their brother. They just were not able to wear the uniform and be an official Cub Scout.”
Harris said Boy Scouts of America conducted multiple surveys over the last few years, finding out what parents of Scouts and non-Scouting families are looking for in their programs. According to an October 2017 news release from the Boy Scouts of America, non-Scouting parents showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs, with 90 percent interest for programs like Cub Scouts and 87 percent interest for programs like Boy Scouts. Education experts evaluated the curriculum and content, and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women, the news release said.
“They made their decision in 2017 to open the Cub Scout program and early adopter program was launched,” Harris said, noting this allowed eligible packs in participating councils to officially register girls kindergarten through fourth grades in Cub Scouts starting in January 2017. “Pack 332 (out of Wardsville) was one of them.”
At the start of the 2018-19 Cub Scout program year, existing packs could choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens, or remain an all-boy pack. Pack 332 allowed girl dens to form, with Den 9 starting in September at the start of the program year.
“As of the end of 2018, 45 of the council’s Cub Scout packs had girls in their packs, with 228 girls registered in Cub Scouts at the end of the year,” Harris said, noting the council covers 33 counties in central and northeast Missouri. “In Mid-Missouri, there is a Cub Scout Pack in Hermann that has nine girls, a pack in Linn that has seven, Pack 11 in Jefferson City has five girls and Pack 333 (also in Jefferson City) has five.”
As of Feb. 1, the Boy Scouts of America launched its new program that allows girls ages 11-17 to establish a Scouts BSA troop, enabling them to progress through the same program as Boy Scouts and earn the Eagle Scout rank.
This approach allows the organization to maintain its integrity of a single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families, according to the news release.
“They all learn the same values of Scouting – duty to God and country, and the personal skills and list of values that are important to everybody,” Harris said. “Boy Scouts of America prepare young people for life, instilling those values. We have finally listened to all the families, asking for a long time to be able to do the programs. The activities and the values and rules every Scout will learn are the same; now we can offer our programs to more kids and families.”
For Cub Scouts Rylee, Addisyn, Lorelei and Caroline, they have embraced the values, rules and activities Scouting provides.
Like many girls who are interested in Cub Scouts or now Scouts BSA programs, the draw is what they get to learn and the activities they participate in.
“When Rylee joined, there was Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, but for her, Cub Scouts was more appealing because of the things they were doing,” said Rylee’s father Brian Snellen. “She wanted to do more of the outdoor activities like camping.”
Camping, hiking and exploring the great outdoors is a passion for the Weeks family as well. Sarah Weeks, Lorelei and Caroline’s mother, said she and her husband are avid hunters and fishermen.
“They are around that and more interested in learning about outdoors activities, which is why they wanted to join Cub Scouts,” Sarah added.
Theresa was also used to leading this group as she served as den leader for her son’s Boy Scout troop.
“Addisyn would always come along with us,” she said, adding her 12-year-old son is now in Boy Scouts and plans to serve as an assistant to Den 9. “When they said that the girls could sign up, she started out as a tiger. Then, Lorelei, Caroline and Rylee signed up and we have been together since September as Den 9.”
With the Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA troops established by gender, the all-girl dens or troops also must have a female leader. Theresa knew the program and thought it was a natural fit for her to lead an all-girl den.
Meeting a couple times a month typically at Blair Oaks Elementary, Den 9 follows the same program as all Cub Scouts, meeting the same aims of scouting – character, citizenship, personal fitness and leadership. They also abide by the same Scout law, which is to be trustworthy, obedient, loyal, cheerful, helpful, thrifty, friendly, brave, courteous, clean, kind and reverent.
They also learn a wealth of skills through advancement projects that allow them to earn badges, strengthens family understanding as adult relatives assist in accomplishing these goals and a sense of personal achievement.
“We work through sections as Cub Scouts, such as one that covers God and religion, another that covers community, another that covers duty to your country,” Theresa said. “We look at the requirement for each different level and work them all together. … For example, Rylee is now earning her whittling chip but they all will learn and practice alongside her.”
Rylee is a Bear and Lorelei and Addisyn are wolves, two steps up from the beginning level of Lion, which is Caroline’s rank. Theresa said at each rank, the Cub Scout has a book to follow that leads them through their different requirements and advancement projects they must fulfill.
“There is a section that covers youth protection, cyber protection. … You have to fulfill all the requirements and an elective, and there is a whole list of electives such as fishing, taking care of your pets, learning about water, robotics, forensics. … You can do all the electives you want and earn the belt loops. Requirements or electives might have you go visit the local police station to learn things; it is a very community involved program.”
It is also a family involved program as well. To meet requirements and electives or to practice them, Den 9 has been on a hike through the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City, attended Scout Sunday at church and embarked on a couple of campouts with their family, including one that allowed them to visit the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka, Missouri.
“At our campout at the wolf preserve, we learned about the endangered species and we took a little hike and got to howl with them,” Addisyn said. “That was fun, and they howled, too. On the hike, we learned some safety things.”
The Cub Scouts also have participated in many different activities, such as the Cubmobile Races last October where Lorelei, Caroline and Addisyn all secured trophies, racing wood cars in the Pinewood Derby this spring and a recent Blue & Gold ceremony where they watch fellow Cub Scouts become Boy Scouts. Theresa said they have many activities planned throughout the rest of the Cub Scout program year, including the girls’ favorite – a campout – in April at Camp Timber Acres in Jefferson City.
The Cub Scouts enjoy Theresa’s tutelage and leadership as they all agree she is “very nice, funny and caring of other people.” And they see the significance in what they learn through Cub Scouts.
“We learn about Jesus and how it is important to say the pledge and stuff; it is all important stuff we need to learn,” Caroline said. “Once we learn the stuff through Cub Scouts, we can then teach it to younger sisters or brothers or friends, too,” Lorelei added smiling at her baby sister.
Theresa said these young ladies are learning things that not only they enjoy, but will also help them throughout their life.
“I think you need all these type of lessons just to survive these days, even the parts about community, God, all of it,” she said. “It is not just the outdoors skills; it is the life lessons. You learn how to be a good person. You learn how to be a good citizen and just like the oath we say Scouting focuses on all the good values of life.”
The Great Rivers Council hosts a variety of day and summer camps, jamborees and other activities for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Scouts BSA troops and its other programs, at multiple venues in Jefferson City, Columbia and its Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation, which also has expanded its facilities to include an invention scout program that creates a entrepreneurship angle on its STEM tutelage and equipment. Harris said the camp has a woodworking shop, screen printers, CNC routers and a new blacksmithing and welding center that will be up and running this summer.
For more information about Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of America’s programs, camps, upcoming events, packs or troops in your area, or how to start your own, call 573-449-2561 or visit www.bsa-grc.org.