When some Boy Scouts started turning in their Eagle badges in response to the group’s policy of discrimination based on sexual orientation (which they’ve since reversed in favor of a more inclusive one), the former members took a good look at what scouting had meant to them. And in 2006, they formed an independent scouting association, one that teaches scouting as it was practiced prior to the 1960s and follows the original guidelines laid down by scouting’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell. The BPSA
(Baden-Powell Service Association), like all scouting groups, is about developing character, improving resourcefulness, and learning responsibility for the community. Run entirely by volunteers, scouts don’t engage in marketing, and they welcome everyone, regardless of any differentiating factors. Perhaps the most unique element, groups at all levels are co-ed (both scouts and leaders), which offers real-world practice in teamwork, and also allows girls the opportunity to learn skills that they might not otherwise have access to. An independent, traditional scouting program, they simply see themselves as the brothers and sisters of The Boy and Girl Scouts of America.
BPSA’s local chapter, the 91st Sojourners
, based in Kingston, boasts almost 50 scouts, ages 5 to adult. That’s impressive considering Brooklyn’s chapter has about 70. Teaching kids useful skills like those learned in scouting is about practicing elements of a democratic society in a way that’s fun and engaging. Going off into the woods presents an unfamiliar situation, so kids are learning about discipline, confidence, responsibility, and how to make decisions for the good of a group. “In the woods you practice those skills that have a direct relationship to what makes a community a better place,” says General Scoutmaster Andy Bicking.
With a focus on teaching kids how to engage with the community, the 91st Sojourners are teaming up with Shawangunk-Catskill Area Grotto
(S.C.A.G.) and the Town of Esopus Library
to offer a public presentation on caving in the Hudson Valley on Wednesday, September 16th. Downstairs, the room will be set with stations where anyone can come and learn how to use one of the oldest forms of technology: knot tying, an important tool in both BPSA scouting and caving. Then Cara Gentry, president of S.C.A.G., will talk about the science of caves and how people can become involved in safely exploring them. Information on both groups will be available to those interested in learning more.
Getting to Know Caves, a public presentation by the BPSA and S.C.A.G. at the Town of Esopus Library, 128 Canal Street in Port Ewen: Wednesday, September 16th; 6:15-8p; free and open to the public; best for ages 8+.