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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 they are supposed to be in seperate 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 seperate 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 girls, I don’t see an easy solution. Thanks for your help!

Thanks for the question. 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.

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.

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. 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.

Readers, what do you think? Add your comments below

16 Responses to Combining Boys and Girls Dens in Cub Scouting

  1. SANDRA September 19, 2018 at 11:25 AM #

    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 September 19, 2018 at 12:55 PM #

    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 September 19, 2018 at 4:03 PM #

    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 September 19, 2018 at 5:14 PM #

    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.

    • SANDRA September 19, 2018 at 6:10 PM #

      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.

      • Casper L September 19, 2018 at 7:33 PM #

        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.

        • Julinda September 20, 2018 at 8:30 AM #

          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.

          • SANDRA September 20, 2018 at 9:15 AM #

            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.

          • Julinda September 20, 2018 at 9:24 AM #

            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.

  5. SANDRA September 19, 2018 at 11:44 PM #

    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 September 20, 2018 at 1:28 PM #

    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 September 20, 2018 at 7:45 PM #

    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.

    • Julinda September 21, 2018 at 8:31 AM #

      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.)

  8. Deborah Slager October 13, 2018 at 3:15 PM #

    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 January 11, 2019 at 11:52 PM #

    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 January 23, 2019 at 3:37 PM #

    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.

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