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Combining Boys and Girls Dens in Cub Scouting

A Question about Combining Boys and Girls Dens in Cub Scouting

A reader sent in this question:

I am currently a boys den leader and was last year for my sons and their friends. Our pack went the family scouting route and girls have been invited to join. When this was rolled out we were told that dens would remain single gender.

Now that we are starting the new year and there has been some interest with girls, I feel the pack committe is starting to (and will put more) pressure on me to provide mixed gender meetings and events at the den level. When asked if I’ll be a girl den leader (since I was the only registerd female den leader last year), I’ve said “No, I have boys and I’l stick with my boy den”.

Any other comments on the matter, I’ve put off. It looks like there may be 2 girls in 3rd year interested. If they enroll (since waiting to here), on paper they will be in a seperate den, though not sure on their leadership. In reality I feel like the pressure will be on me to provide a mixed gender program.

While our pack committe chair is female, last year I was the only female den leader. This year I know of one other who has agreed to be the female kindergarten leader. I’ve discreetly polled my den, who all returned from last year and there were no new 3rd grade boys who signed up.

The families are split about 50/50 on their comfort of having female scouts at our meetings. One of my male assistent den leaders is very for it the other not so much. While I know many may not agree, I don’t see why the boys den needs to provide a place for the girls, as the boys and girls dens are supposed to be in separate dens.

I am not comfortable being a girl den leader on paper and my families are split on their opinion to have girls at our meeting/events. Just knowing that all families aren’t onboard, I have a hard time agreeing to provide. And while I personally feel that it is good the program is being offered, one of the reason we stayed with the pack was that we were told the boys and girls would be in separate dens and continue to do activities with their den. At the same time, until girls in scouting takes off what do you do with the 1-2 girls interested?

My question how do I proceed? I want my den to remain all boys and since my families are not in agreement with allowing combined boys and girls dens, I don’t see an easy solution. Thanks for your help!

No Pressure

Thanks for the question about combining boys and girls dens. First of all, I never like to hear that a den leader is being pressured to do something he or she does not want to do. Scouting should be a cooperative effort between the volunteers. Unless somebody is really breaking some rules, then there is no reason to be making our fellow Scouters do something they don’t want to do.

Boys and Girls Have Separate Dens

Boy dens are boy dens and girl dens are girl dens. Now I don’t have a problem with dens doing some things together IF there is agreement that this is what is best for the youth. So if a boy den and a girl den want to go on a joint visit to the police station and that works out best for everyone, then do it. The same is true for different levels. If there is an advantage to your Bears and Wolves doing something jointly, then that is OK.

Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy

This is going to be a learning process, but I don’t think we should be forcing boys and girls together out of convenience. Boys and girls develop at different rates and their are significant advantages to letting them have their own dens. If there are two girls who sign up, then they are a girl den.  They can still work the program together. And maybe they can find a friend or two who will join them.

A Small Den Can Work

Dens don’t have to be large. We have had dens as small as three boys in our pack. They had their own meetings. It does take a dedicated den leader, but it can be a lot of fun also.  But they need an actual den leader, not just somebody on paper. Maybe somebody can be recruited. If not, perhaps your pack is not ready to welcome girls.

Family Den Pilot Program To Create Official Boys and Girls Dens

Some councils are running a pilot program where packs are allowed to officially create boys and girls dens for Lions through Bears.

Related Resources for Combining Boys and Girls Dens

Combining Cub Scout Dens: Bears and Wolves

A reader asks for advice about combining two small Cub Scout dens, which has some similarities to this question about combining boys and girls dens.


32 responses to “Combining Boys and Girls Dens in Cub Scouting”

  1. SANDRA Avatar

    Tha program requires separate dens for girls and boys. Contact your District Executive for further clarification if needed. We are open to girls, but we didn’t have enough interest to form dens so we are postponing the program for now.

  2. J-lo Avatar

    I have the opposite view of the person who sent the question. We had 1 girl sign up at our recruitment event. Bear level. My husband was already prepared to be the Bear den level (he’s also soon-to-be-former Cubmaster) and we have 3 returning boys for the Bear den, no new recruits. Our pack leadership talked it over and we agreed I would be the girl den leader but we would in practice do many things together. But before even attending a meeting, the girl quit. So we never got to see how it would work. Yes, the dens are supposed to be single-gender, and that may work fine in a bigger city, but in our small town/rural area, it’s not practical. You can’t have a den with one girl! In my opinion, mixed or separate gender should be up to the unit, but I really think mixed will work better. If we’re going to include girls, include them fully!

  3. becky Avatar

    Our pack welcomes siblings at all events and my daughter is often more excited than my son. Sadly, we have not started any girl dens because lack of volunteers- I already lead the Webelos and am committee chair, can’t take on another role in the pack.
    So my daughter has been signed up for girl scouts and I have to try so hard not to compare the programs! Being so deep in our pack, it really is a challenge to not criticize “another way”.

  4. Casper L Avatar
    Casper L

    This should really be a non-issue. These boys and girls spend time together in school doing things together. If they go to church they do things with the opposite sex. At least in our pack, they only do two campouts a year and they are family campouts where the cub sleeps with their own family. I think too many people have to much time on their hands to start worrying about this situation. Combine the dens so that you do not need extra leaders on top of the leaders you need now cuz you can not get people to volunteer. Also, there are already girls in scouts in the venturing and the sea scouts. Where is your turmoil about that? It has been just fine for years and years. Keep two-deep leadership in place. Or hey a better idea…instead of letting scouts be a babysitter for the little girl have the parent be made to stay at the den meeting so nothing improper will go on with the den leader or other scouts. Seriously, once again to many people with time on their hands.

    1. SANDRA Avatar

      It’s not about improper things happening. The decision to have separate dens was based on the fact that girls and boys mature at different rates and to give boys and girls their own space in which to learn and grow. Having done a pilot program researching the effects of single gender classrooms, I agree with approach.

      1. Casper L Avatar
        Casper L

        Well, that strategy does not work in every situation. It needs to be revised to allow smaller packs to do them combined. It is hard enough to find volunteers to lead these dens. I want girls involved I think they are making it too hard to accomplish this overall. I will say though there is the talk of the issue of improper things being possible. Especially when they cross over.

        1. Julinda Avatar

          Casper I agree! And our troop currently only has a few boys so we don’t know what we will do if we get girls.

          1. SANDRA Avatar

            Are you talking about a troop (grade 6 and up) or a pack? Troops are not coed. Charter organizations have to form a new troop if they want to accept girls.

          2. Julinda Avatar

            Agree, Sandra, that a troop is to be single gender. I guess my concern is that if girls want to be in a troop, in our rural area where we only have a few boys who want to be in it, there will not be enough girls or leaders to have a troop for them. And I believe that, as is happening with the Cub Scout packs, pressure will be put on the existing boys’ troop to come up with the leadership for the girls. Apparently the girls’ troop can even have the same number as the boys. AND actually I believe the troops should be coed but I don’t think that will fly under the current rules.

        2. Mark Montoya Avatar
          Mark Montoya

          I agree that the pack should be allowed to have mixed gender dens.
          My concern is the double standard on leadership. An all male den can have only female leaders which is probably a mother of one of the boys however a female den can mot have only male leaders even if they are the fathers of one of the girls.

        3. Kim Johnson Avatar
          Kim Johnson

          When my son started as a Tiger, we were told to have a Tiger den one of the parents of the Tiger age was going to have to step up and be a leader. Why would this work out different for the leaders of the girl’s den? Have the girls’ parents step up to be leaders.

          Or if they don’t want to, reach out to your council and see if there are other packs with girl dens already established that they can join.

  5. SANDRA Avatar

    When they cross over to a troop, it will be an all girl troop. Read the BSA information about the Scout Me In program and you will see that troops are single gender and female troops must have at least one female adult leader.

    Venture crews and Explorer posts may be co-ed, but there are plenty that choose to be single gender.

  6. Greg Avatar

    As Committee Chair for our Cub Scout Pack I have received similar questions on both sides of this issue. We have determined that Dens will remain separate. If girls would like to join our Pack (we welcome them!) and someone will need to step up to be the girl’s Den leader – no leader, no den. The girls can promote their den to their friends and the Den will grow organically.

  7. Jason Avatar

    Stand your ground at your comfort level. I’m grateful for your courage to realize that boys and girls benefit from having their own safe space to develop. I also just want to say how sorry I am that the Scouting organization has failed you. This frustration and controversy is caused my “mans” chaotic hubris; lacking in Godly wisdom and relying on cultural bents instead of time-tested and divine design. The Girl Scout organization should have been helped and fortified instead of given up on. It’s only a matter of time before a boy demands to join the Girl Scouts and what can we say to him? Why not?
    Who of you who supports the current gender mixed policy can say “no?” You cannot.

    I ask you to consider protesting the madness of the BSA leadership. Our children deserve better. Thank you for your bravery; stand your ground.

    1. Julinda Avatar

      Jason, I assume you know Girl Scouts is an entirely separate organization from Boy Scouts. They can decide to accept boys or not, just as the BSA decided to accept girls. If boys want to join Girl Scouts, they can take that up with the organization. And if the powers that be of Girl Scouts want to make that change, they are free to do so.

      Also, I am almost 100% sure single gender scouting was not created by nor mandated by “divine design.” Boy Scouts and other scouting programs were created for social purposes and it is logical that they would change over time.

      Personally I would have preferred Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to remain single gender, but the leadership has decided otherwise so it up to my family to decide whether we want to stay with it or not. (We do. We’ve been involved for about 13 years, as parents and then leaders, and we think it’s a great program.)

      1. David Avatar

        The Girl Scouts of America is a feminist organization and will certainly not be letting in boys short of losing a major lawsuit.

  8. Deborah Slager Avatar
    Deborah Slager

    Do not take on more responsibility than you are comfortable with. Some packs are requiring a girl’s mother sign up for her den. Yes, the girls deserve the same great program our sons have but not at their expense. Those families that want their daughters in have to provide the trained leadership to make it happen. Until there are more girls and female leaders signing up you can combine all the girls into one den (regardless of their grade) and have them all meet in one room with the required female leader and one other registered & trained YPT person and parents to run their respective learning experience. Group their outdoor requirements, cooking requirements, etc into a group program.

  9. Celeste Avatar

    Cub Scouts has been around for more than 100 years. No one can expect to flip a switch and have a high functioning girl program overnight. It will take patience.

    I suggest the current stewards of Cub Scout Packs realize they are managing change at a unique moment in the BSA’s history and should honor the requirements for single gender dens (and not make up their own rules).

    If there are a just a handful of girls at different levels, they should be combined into a single den with handbooks for their level/grade. The den will need an experienced den leader to deliver meetings and activities that will suit each girl for their particular rank advancement.

  10. Michael Woolery Avatar
    Michael Woolery

    For our Pack, it really is a matter of getting parents to volunteer to be den leaders.Our dens, either boy or girl, tend to be anywhere from 2 to 8 scouts, but typically about 4 or 5, which is actually a good size if you have good attendance rates. But as we were early adopters last year and going into this year, the biggest issue has been getting den leaders. Many of the girls joining were from families of boys already in the Pack, so just because we increased the number of scouts we didn’t necessarily increase the number of families from which to pull leaders. So, what ends up happening is our Bear boy den leader on Tuesday night is also the Bear girl den leader on Wednesday night and running a program twice, with small numbers both nights. But, having the dens meet on one night with one leader keeps the volunteer work manageable.

  11. David Avatar

    How can you have an all-girl Den of 1 (for example) and expect to represent the best of Scouting? Is a girl AOL Den of 1 (something our Pack is facing) supposed to meet separately than the boy AOL Den of say 5? Double the same work? Is that really an enjoyable experience for the girl regarding Scouting, being alone during her path to AOL?

    If there are enough girls to form a girl-only Den within the Pack and there is leadership to support it, then by all means, go that route. But as Cub Scouts is family-based (we have sisters of Cub Scouts at Den Meetings and Pack events already), why make a big deal about it as long as 2-deep leadership including 1 female is utilized?

  12. Kate Paille Avatar
    Kate Paille

    Okay so we are new to scouting .. like brand new… like new scout smell new. Scouting was NOT on my radar. I have all girls. I was NOT interested in signing the kids up for scouts of anything. I didn’t even know much beyond buying stuff from friends’ kids; cookies popcorn, wreaths, magazines, mulch … whatever. So this year we were recruited at a back to school function . A person showed my kids the amazing things scouts do . My kids who love all things outdoors and have been begging us to go tent camping instead of rustic-cabin camping begged me to say yes. I did.
    We went to the initial sign-up meetings. We bought uniforms. (We wear our uniforms and frankly I have to admit with more care to detail and presentation than most of the boys their same ages.) We bought books. We’ve sold popcorn. We’ve manned popcorn booths and asked numerous people, ” Would you like to help support me and my friends in Cub Scouts today? ” We’ve practiced oaths and signs and etc over breakfast. We’ve attended pack meetings and Den meetings. We have attended family campouts and extra den activities. We know many of the scouts and some of their families. These are people we know from school our neighborhood our other extra curricular activities.
    My girls play with these boys every single day. Half the parents are surprised to find the out the “boys” they thought their sons were playing with at school…. the “boys” they heard their sons talking about just happen to be my girls… who just happen have names that could be either a boy’s or girl’s. Most of the other scout families we have met are fine with us. There were some eyebrows at first. There are still a few who I think don’t really want us there. Whatever. We are not leaving at his point because I have invested too much money on camping gear and scouting stuff to let the annoyance of others turn us away.
    My girls are having fun. I am there at every meeting/ event etc. I have never left my kids any place. I don’t even use babysitters because I am a parent first and foremost. I HAVE no plans to use scouts as a babysitter as someone above mentioned. Most of the time it is just me and my girls. My husband has a job that requires him to be gone 2 – 3 weeks a month. I am capable. This is my normal. I am sorry we don’t have a Dad to volunteer to help with the dens but I am around to do what I can while managing my other kids who are NOT in that particular day’s den meeting or event
    What is NOT normal is being invited to participate in something only to discover that people are not REALLY sure what to do with us or if they even want us there. The most obvious push back I feel is from the Den mothers. There are moms in leadership positions and spouses of men in leadership positions who do not hide well the fact that they are annoyed by us being there. To them I would like to say….. don’t invite someone over to your home for dinner and then complain when they sit at your table to eat. If scouting wants to attract girls… go for it . 100% go for it. Don’t invite little girls to be a part of this organization with promises of fun and fellowship and then give them the cold shoulder. They are in fact little kids. Boys or girls they are children. They are not pawns for politics.
    If your pack intends to attract little girls be sure BEFORE they show up to your meetings. Be sure EVERYONE is saying the EXACT SAME THING TO THE PARENTS OF THOSE LITTLE GIRLS. Do NOT let a few people say that, “Oh with only a few girl,s we will just include them in all the boy den activities” and then have a den mom who is irritated with us for being there. We did NOT come looking for scouts. They came look for us. Just think about how you would feel if you were in my shoes.

    1. Chuck Pool Avatar
      Chuck Pool

      As a scouter, a committee member for cub and boy scouts, and a cub den leader (LIons now! wooohoo!), I must say I don’t understand where people get off viewing scouts as anything but youthful adventure seekers learning how to play safe, survive safe, follow our civic and community codes, and respect each other. Parents who raise eyebrows should (and probably don’t) think about those things. Lord Baden Powell did, and we have Scouts now because of him.

      I wish I had more parents like you in our pack. People who show up wanting to see their children have great experiences and wanting to help other children have the same. All parents on the same page with safety as the number one criteria – not just safety from abuse, but the teaching of safety as a condition for any endeavor.

      I stereotype those eyebrow folks as ‘sorority girls’ or ‘frat boys’ who are more impressed with looks than with character. I know that is unkind – I was in a fraternity and I have always been character driven. Function over form. Utility over novelty. But I stereotype and ignore their behaviors that don’t contribute to the full scouting picture. Sometimes when presenting awards, I highlight the remarkable camaraderie and selfless giving of the scouts – knowing full well the parents who should listen closely are spacing out and ignoring the words. But the kids who model adults in the community – maybe they will see the dichotomy and choose the more compassionate path.

      Thank you for giving your girls the full measure of the outdoors and supporting scouting.

  13. Mick Avatar

    Its ridiculous to have only one aspect of scouting as a gender separation. They should all meet together and the program should be coed as the venturing crews, sea scouts, and all other scouting programs in other countries.

  14. lizz Avatar

    Really why are we so focused on seperating them boys with boys and girls with girls instead of having everyone interacting together with adults supervising one another….. why do we as human beings gotta complicate things let them participate together also i feel that before you can transition to a BSA troop u should be required to earn the webelos and arrow of light badges before moving forward and that they shouldnt move on until they are ready …… scouts with special needs well what about learning or social anxiety….

    1. Chuck Pool Avatar
      Chuck Pool

      Lizz – I agree with you, and I also agree with those who say scouting should not have the taint of sexual abuse or any form of abuse in their ranks. Unfortunately my first experience at a scout camp – a welcome weekend or cuboree – was a chance encounter with a child sitting on a rock crying to his father. Not yet a middle schooler, he was wailing that “they won’t let me camp right next to them, they said I wasn’t a good Bear and I should just go home.”

      I stopped, I didn’t approach, I listened to the father try to explain that feelings get hurt and words get said but that they were still friends at school and on the playground even if they are fighting today.

      I lead two lion dens – ridiculous, but I do. We meet in two separate rooms that have a connecting door. We have two separate den numbers, I am the old, tried, and true den leader so I am the leader of both dens although I manage to have parents step up to lead. Our girls are thin, truly not enough for a full den per rank. We have a very active girl scout troop system, but the GSA is less outdoorsy now than they were in the 1970’s when my sisters were scouts. All I try to do is provide the scouts the same opportunities for fun – safely – within the pack and follow the rules national has set for us to follow.

      Two deep leadership, at least one adult of the scout’s gender in any of the outings, no outings without the parent(s) or at least 4 adults so that if an emergency occurs, two or more adults can manage the remaining scouts while the emergency is managed.

      The girls seem more enthused for a lot of the cub scout program – maybe because they are trailblazing. Maybe because they are standing toe to toe with the boys in a way their sister’s hadn’t. I know my sisters were impressed when I told her we invited the GSA troops to our pinewood derby car building workshops and our pinewood derby. My 66 year old sister just gushed with how she so wanted to race a pinewood derby car when my older brother was in the pack. Now that we are a coed pack – we still invite the GSA troops in our community to the derby – and we run the pack winners against the GSA troop winners for our big community trophy.

      There is a difference between boys and girls, and there are differences between all the members of each gender! But in scouting, they all are treated the same way in our pack. We do follow the gender guidelines national has set up. My dens meet individually, but we do combine for activities with full parent participation – at the Lion stage that is easy – by Bear or Webelos, the boys get mouthy and the girls push back – and body weights are well matched enough that we only have to stop it when it gets hurtful. I will not allow the cubs to hurt each other physically or with words. But that is me as a den leader and pack member. Boys scouts is a little different – but like others have said, by the Venture age (14+), personal and sexual identity have begun to settle, the awkward phase is apparent to others – but the scout has gone through their hormone changes and are ‘settling’ into their adult bodies as awkward as that is. We just have to keep them focused on the tenets of scouting and off of the tenets of the ‘adult world’ so to speak.

      Twenty years from now National may have a different take on den make-up. Until then we just have to raise our cubs the way we raise our families – when in public (or in the pack) we do things by the public standard, when at home we just watch for bad behavior and make sure everyone is safe, studying, and playing.

  15. Lori Avatar

    I don’t see it as providing a boy program or girl program.. it’s just a Cub Scout program.

  16. Chuck Avatar

    Small dens are not cost effective. That means large dens are subsidizing the smaller den.

    If the two females don’t go on the trip, then the girls can’t go. 2 deep.

    If boys and girls are segmented. Then what prevents from dens from being segmented by other factors, race, religion or parents income. As a den leader, I only want to work with the Catholic boys, because my son knows from school. The protestant or other boys can go elsewhere.

    If allowing girls to join cub scouts is a way to expand the BSA applicant base, then maybe it has turned it back on its mission of being inclusive.

  17. Jason Simone Avatar
    Jason Simone

    Girls are welcome to join cub scouting and they should be offered all the same opportunities to participate as boys are. Our pack holds all activities as co-ed activities, regardless of if they are at the pack-level or the den-level. The argument that girls and boys mature differently is silly and it’s being repeatedly used here as a fresh new excuse to keep girls out of the program. If kids sometimes need different challenges, it doesn’t mean they need different programs. It’s not like they are working on different ranks. If they are expected to succeed together in a classroom, then they can all succeed together in a den activity.

    A den with girls in it needs a female den leader present. That is a requirement that makes sense. It is how we operate and it is probably why this den leader is being pressured to accept girls. I’m sorry, but I don’t have any empathy for accommodating this den leader’s comfort level with gender segregation for kids who are in elementary school. I hope someone in this pack is willing to do what is right for the girl scouters.

  18. Nikki Avatar

    Our pack is small. We have 5 scouts, 1 of whom is female and they are all different levels. Not only would our pack have been forced to fold during the pandemic without her membership. It would have been super lame for all the scouts if we separated into individual den meetings. It would also require 7 meetings a week on my part instead of 1.

    I’m all about getting YOUTH out scouting. One of my absolute favorite things (and the only reason we joined BSA) is because BSA changed their views to target all youth, not just boys.

    I don’t understand how the OP thinks teaching a girl is somehow different than teaching boys. They were pretty hung up on thinking a female would alter the lesson plans. Our girl does the exact same requirements as the boys, same activities, same uniform. Just clarifying that females do not require different activities to earn their requirements.

  19. James Avatar

    I had a son go through Cubs and Boy Scouts before the rebranding and admittance of girls. I had a younger son start Cub Scouts under the new model as Lion. His Pack had mixed Dens when I joined. He is now a Wolf and has gone on many adventures with the girls in his Den. We have grown to 12 youth in his Den, 2 girls the rest boys and a few girl siblings join us on all of our trips. It has been a wonderful experience. I think at this age that while yes, boys and girls develop at different rates, it is not so dramatic a difference to separate them. My dilemma is that I did not know we were doing it “wrong” until now and now I am the Committee Chair. I have decided, I am not going to upset the apple cart.

  20. David Avatar

    I find it offensive and shameful that boys are being denied their own spaces in society. Isn’t it interesting that the Girl Scouts are not admitting boys? Clearly they think it’s important to exclude boys, to keep boys from interfering with a time and space that is meant to be only for girls. Why can’t we ever show boys the same respect? Are there now two spaces in society — mixed-sex and female-only? I really cannot stand this society.

  21. David Virgil Casson Avatar
    David Virgil Casson

    But you’re not suggesting we combine the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, are you. No. Only boys should be denied single sex spaces in which to learn and grow, not girls.

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