BPSA-US / January 2021 Inclusive traditional scouting, even during a pandemic

Message from the chief Commissioner

Dear Scouts,

Welcome to our first National Newsletter! We hope to continue this quarterly. There's so much to share - our equity initiatives on registration, what scouts around the country are up to, online training opportunities, the results from the survey so many of you answered so thoughtfully, and most of all, ways you can participate in all of it. I'm looking forward to a great year full of great connections with all of you.

The protests, vigils, and demonstrations in support of Black Lives Matter last summer were the biggest social movement in all of US history. I think everyone, from veteran social justice warriors to casual observers, gained new insights last year about racism, anti-racism, inclusion, and the roles our institutions play in helping or hindering the equal treatment of all. We have much work to do within the BPSA to bring our practices and materials into better alignment with our ideals of being welcoming to all, and the scouting ideal of world peace. We cannot do it without YOU. Some of our current projects and needs are:

-Re-naming Committee: We committed to changing our name. Regardless of who Robert Baden-Powell was as a person, he explicitly promoted many of the institutions and attitudes of his time that continue to be damaging today - racism, sexism, imperialism, colonialism. The scouting program he outlined and promoted is timeless, wonderful, and the core of why we are all here. If you are ready to do the work of teasing out a name that better reflects who we are and what we do, and help implement this change that will further our mission of being welcoming to all, please contact Peter Adrian, Re-naming Committee Coordinator: mstrpete@gmail.com

-Survey Action Committee: This group formed to help tackle the wide variety of small projects we can do to improve. Do you have time to help create new marketing materials? Review our exisiting handbooks for improvement in language or image or small programmatic items? Collaborate on a leader guide for a specific topic like "Scouting with LGBTQ+ Youth" or "Curriculum Resources for Otter Groups"? Click here to volunteer: https://bpsa-us.org/volunteer/

-Pathfinder Manual Committee: This dedicated group has been working diligently for over a year on a full re-write, and I think it will be an amazing example of our very best - but we need someone to coordinate great artwork for it. Contact ddedolph@bpsa-us.org

-Training Committee: Scouting is a practice, not a theory. Our training team is core to spreading the magic of this game, and needs to keep expanding and developing. Joining the Spring VOLT as a participant or a trainer-trainee is a great way to connect with some of your scout siblings and have fun while helping. Contact training@bpsa-us.org or your District/Regional Commissioner

-And there's always more! We need a new Communications Commissioner, we need help developing a democratic and clear process for deep program changes, someone to help with fundraising and grant-writing to financially support scouting for all... contact me anytime at hq@bpsa-us.org

Yours in Scouting,

Amber Wiley, Chief Commissioner

Scouting During COVID

Despite our deepest hopes, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our lives and our scouting. While vaccines are being distributed, it is important to remember that they are not yet approved for children, the majority of our membership. As such, it is vitally important that we continue to have virus and germ protocols in place for our groups.

As a reminder, all scout groups must follow local, state, and CDC guidelines if they plan to meet in-person including wearing masks during activities involving multiple households. Group Scoutmasters should work with leaders to decide whether it's safe to scout based on local conditions. The below resources are provided as support for leaders, and not a recommendation to scout in person or an assessment of whether it is safe to do so in your area.

After diligent work, a group at BPSA HQ, including our new Safety Commissioner, has put together a set of documents to help your group make good decisions as the pandemic continues. We recommend taking a 3 part approach to your scouting. First, do a pre-event checklist to evaluate the risks of your event, and to plan to mitigate possible germ spread. You can use this checklist to help you with this.

GSM COVID Risk Assessment Checklist

Second, be sure your members all do a pre-screen for COVID symptoms and can state firmly that they are healthy to be able to participate. And third, track your member attendance at any event, so that you can let all appropriate members know if someone is diagnosed with COVID after the event. Knowing who has been exposed and should quarantine is vital to controlling the spread. You can use this sign in sheet to track attendance and use as part of your pre-screen, too!

BPSA COVID Attendance 2020-2021

Additional GSM guidance is included in this document that can also help you in planning events and limiting germ spread to participants.

General COVID Safety Guidelines

Our team also created a helpful set of guidelines to use if your group feels ready to take a camping trip. Keep in mind, your ideal camping trip plans may need to change to accommodate best practices for limiting germ spread, such as keeping food separate instead of having all your scouts cook together.

COVID Camping Guidelines

Finally, if your group is meeting on-line or video chatting, please be sure to follow our new guidelines for youth protection and electronic communications.

Please contact your District or Regional Commissioner if you would like further guidance in this difficult time.

It's not all virtual scouting (although there's plenty of that as well). Here are some photos from friends scouting (safely) during covid to help brighten our winters just a little.
Scout on, friends!

BPSA-US Survey Report

In August 2020, The BPSA-US surveyed our membership to hear views on our current practices and how well we are fulfilling the promise of our mission statement. Key issues included in the survey:

Name Change:

Level of support for the removal of the name of Baden-Powell from the organization was high, with 79% of respondents supporting a name change. This includes those who supported it with a concern regarding changes and those who were very supportive of a name change.


The biggest takeaway from these questions is that our materials do not match the culture of inclusion, anti-racism and gender equality outlined in the mission and commonly promoted and practiced in our groups. 53% of respondents noted encountering something in BPSA that made them uncomfortable or found it hard to explain to others.

  • B-P
  • Uniforms/Military/Flag
  • Ceremonies
  • Gendered language

What’s important in Scouting:

“Outdoors” and “Inclusive Mission” came up as the strongest themes. In response to questions about Traditional Scouting, the notion of “back-to-basics,” or focusing on skill proficiency and scout promise & law was selected more frequently as an essential component of scouting than studying about Robert Baden-Powell.

Actions to be taken based on survey:

We want our extended Scouting community to know we are working on multiple projects to close these gaps in communication and information. However, we welcome everyone to participate and ensure that we’re working on the right projects. Currently, we are working on:

  • An updated core values statement: longer than a mission statement, shorter than a handbook, to define our organization more clearly & empower our members to describe it with confidence
  • Creating better channels for communication between membership and national leadership as well as between groups. We want transparency and collaboration in discussions about changes to program
  • Developing democratic and inclusive methods for making program updates and changes, including to ceremonies, uniforms, language, etc
  • Developing new leader guides to assist scout leaders with our own BPSA resources to address the needs identified by survey responses. This includes leading neurodiverse scouts, being anti-racist and meeting the needs of our LGBTQ+ scouts
  • Developing new outreach and marketing materials


A total of 361 people responded to the survey, with 327 completing all questions. Responses represented roughly 30-40% of the membership or 700-800 scouts (parents answering for families of scouts).

  • Nearly half the responses (48%) came from adults who scout (Rovers) and one-third from parents of scouts (36%)
  • Most scout families (84%) identified as white. The second highest identity was Hispanic/Latinx, with 8%. Many selected multiple identities
  • Approximately a third of respondents indicated that they or a scout in their family had special needs, a quarter indicated neurodiversity
  • About 22% indicated that they or a family member identifies as LGBTQ+ and 9% as transgender.

For those interested in even MORE details, you can read a more detailed survey report here.

Pathfinder handbook committee

The Pathfinder Handbook Committee has been meeting for over a year now, with the goal of creating a Pathfinder Handbook that is a better reference for our scouts, and enhances the program we want to offer. We hope to have this new handbook ready for use in Jan. of 2022.

Here are some highlights of what the committee has addressed:

  • Badge names and language have been updated to be gender inclusive. For example, the HealthyMan badge is now going to be the Health badge.
  • Badges have been added to the program to make it a more well rounded program. These badges are in areas of the arts, life skills and civics, all areas found in traditional scouting programs but which our program lacked.
  • Many new badges are updated versions of badges from the 1920’s PO&R or the Girl Guides handbook. There are some are new additions in the spirit of scouting we participate in here in BPSA.
  • Older badges have had a review and update for safety and content.

Also, the handbook committee has worked to address other areas that were outdated or lacking and make all language gender inclusive. We have removed references to other sources, as some of those were problematic. The new handbook has a fully updated section on First Aid. It also includes information directed to the scout about how to be in a patrol, and how to lead a patrol.

Finally, the committee has updated the Senior level of the program to make it more appealing to our scouts. The senior level will have several new higher level awards for superior scouting. It also has updated and additional badges in both traditional areas and new ones such as learning about the art work of Indigenous Peoples and Advocacy.

The committee has spent countless hours debating how to keep our traditional values and create a scouting program that appeals to modern youth. Watch out in upcoming issues of this newsletter for information on how you can volunteer as an early reader to provide feedback on the new handbook!

From the national Secretary & registrar

We hope that everyone is having a safe, healthy and positive start to the new year.

We’d like to share with you some news and frequently asked questions related to individual membership, background checks and group Charters.

First, we’re happy to remind you of our Everybody Scouts initiative. Any individual or group can reduce the cost of dues as necessary. There is no application process or submitting documentation. When checking out, you can select the amount that fits you and/or your group from $0+.

The Group Pause feature “pauses the clock” on renewal for your group charter as well as the individual members in your group. This is a good choice for groups that aren’t meeting due to Covid. Individual memberships and Group Charters are good for one year - using the Group Pause will shift renewal dates so that time on Group Pause doesn’t count towards this one-year renewal timing. In last summer’s optimism, we had originally set this to expire at the end of January 2021, but we will continue to extend as necessary. Remember, all you need to do is to select these options in the Dashboard when you, your GSM or your Registrar logs in and view your or your group’s record.

Background checks are required by all current Adult Members, whether they are actively scouting or not. This includes Lone Scouts. The cost of your background check comes out of BPSA-US membership fees, so there is no additional cost to you for a background check. Our current policy is every two years after completion of a Sterling Volunteers Background check. Sterling Volunteers runs a thorough national and local background check every month in the first year of renewing the background check. Remember, background checks are important, but strong Youth Safety procedures and practices are essential. Especially if you are meeting virtually, consider reviewing Youth Safety on Electronic Communication, part of our Youth Ethics and Safety Policy.

Lastly, do you have a Pathfinder who has turned 18 and is moving on to Rovering? Have you or your scout changed addresses or names? Let us know! We’d be happy to update your information for you.

Your Secretary, Jennifer Best and Registrar, Judy Campa

Training Committee News

Training opportunity

Your Trainers are lonely with COVID-19 going on. While we cannot host a Brownsea Training Camp (BTC), we will be hoisting our second Virtual Online Leader Training (VOLT) event. What is Volt?

  • VOLT is introductory leader training.
  • VOLT includes an overview of BPSA, Youth Protection, and all Sections.
  • VOLT is not a BTC and doesn’t replace or provide the depth of experience and training of a BTC.

Who should attend VOLT?

  • VOLT is targeted at new leaders and potential new GSMs. Ideally, we would direct these folks to the nearest BTC, but COVID.

How do we VOLT?

  • VOLT will be delivered as five Zoom video calls. Participants need to attend all five calls. We will be doing some work as Patrols so your team will need you.
  • The session is March 19-21, 2021
  • A registration link will be distributed to GSMs shortly or contact training@bpsa-us.org .

Trainer Opportunity

Did we mention we are lonely? The Training Committee has several Regions without Trainers. We would like to add folks to our team to help develop, and deliver training to keep spreading the Scouting movement.

Who should join?

  • There are specific requirement to be a Certified Trainer, but anyone with time and interest can join the Training community and work toward the requirements.

What are these requirements? Since you asked:

  • Must be a BPSA-US registered Rover Knight in good standing.
  • Must have willingness to travel to provide training to serve BPSA.
  • Must participate in at least one BTC per year (COVID excepted).
  • Must complete the BTC Certified Training to the satisfaction of the Regional Training Commissioner:
  1. Attend BTC3 as a participant.
  2. Participate in BTC3s as an instructor to experience leading all the training material.
  3. Lead a BTC3 as the training coordinator with a Certified Trainer observing

That’s a lot.

  • Yes but Training is very important and we need to make sure all our Leaders are prepared to do their best for the kids.

How can I get started?

  • We could use help for the upcoming VOLT!
  • Contact your Regional Training Commissioner or training@bpsa-us.org

Quartermaster's Corner

Did you know that our Quartermaster Scott Hudson is also a volunteer? Not only does he keep us in badges and uniforms, income from QM is part of what funds our organization, helping keep membership dues low. Here's an update from the QM:

2020 Total Sales are down 70% from 2019, but we are keeping the lights on!

  • Scouting @ Home badges are available now! There are over 600 still in stock, order here, check out the requirements here. Lone Scouts, contact "Skipper Sue" and "Rover Mate Scott" to get yours.
  • New shipping option: USPS 1st Class Package for small badge orders of 50 items or less.
  • If unsure which shipping to choose, email QM or chat via the new QM Store "Chat with us" option. Later this year, shipping will be automatically calculated using various carrier rates based on weight and zone. Also, quantities of items in stock are being added over time, providing a better insight into any possible back-orders. This process should finish in the same time period.
  • We have shiny new shirts! Shirts from Propper have been added to the online inventory, as an alternative to the TAG shirts for Pathfinders and Rovers. Right now we only have them in "mens cut". They are a lightweight poly/cotton ripstop material, check them out here.
  • Coming soon: A few new items will be added to the QM Store soon, including a new less-expensive mess kit from UCO and new colors of the popular MoraKniv Basic 511CS. Check out the 'Featured Items' section of the webstore for new additions.

Yours in Traditional Scouting,

Scott (QM) - Anxiously awaiting the chance to again have pop-up stores at post-pandemic campouts and Hullabaloos!!!

Regional news


Jeff Welch, Northeast Regional Commissioner

Jillian Tate, NYC District Commissioner

Things have been quieter in the Northeast this past year, but COVID wasn't going to stop our very own Chance Michaels (5th Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NYC) from becoming the 6th Rover in the nation to earn the Baden-Powell award, the pinnacle award for Rovers. Congratulations, Chance! Chance bicycled 400 miles, all within Brooklyn and mostly on his lunch breaks, to earn his Rambler award and keep his sanity during quarantine.

Heads unbowed, many other Brooklyn scouts have also kept going, holding outings and serving the community. They've even shared some great photos. Below we can see:

  • 1213th has a small but strong group that’s gotten together to pick up trash in Prospect Park, hike around Fahnestock, and collect food, toys and $300 for the Camp Friendship food pantry
  • 5th and 234th hiking at Coney Island, December 5th 2020
  • 234th Stuy Rangers hiking at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve on Oct 17th


Laura Sowdon, South Regional Commissioner

This fall, the South Region promoted our first ever scout from Pathfinder to Rover Squire. Elliot Sowdon of the 17th Black Bears, graduated from Pathfinders after having completed the rank of First Class, attending Bronze Arrow Training, and achieving the Silver Arrow Award as a pathfinder. We are very proud of them.

The South also started our first ever group in Tennessee, the 901st Buffalo led by Aislinn McEwan in Bartlett.


Chun-Yin Chong, Midwest Regional Commissioner (Interim)

We hope all is well with you and your family during this difficult time. Jeff Kopp of St. Louis, Missouri stepped down as Midwest Commissioner in November 2020, after serving for four years. We thank Jeff for his tireless service and his great contribution to the Midwest region. Chun-Yin Chong of the Minneapolis–St. Paul area has agreed to assume the post on an interim basis. Anyone is interested in serving at the regional level, please contact Chun-Yin at commissionermidwest@bpsa-us.org.

The Midwest Region is also still looking for volunteers to fill the Training Commissioner position as well as volunteers to be trained and serve as regional trainers at our next Brownsea Training Course (BTC). The BTC that was scheduled in May 2020 was canceled due to the lockdown and restrictions, and we are planning to hold another BTC as soon as the pandemic is over and/or social-distancing restrictions are lifted. Meanwhile, a few members from the Midwest region participated in the first VOLT in August 2020. Please feel free to sign up for the next VOLT if you are a new member or provisional group seeking a new charter.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the Midwest region has seen new groups forming and lone scouts joining BPSA. 56th Blue Waters of St. Clair, Michigan, led by Sarah and Michael Leroy, was formed in October 2020. There are also interest groups planning during this time. Rae Goodman-Lucker of Northbrook, Illinois, the GSM of 9th Fireflies, is starting a new group in the Prairie State.

We would like to encourage everyone to continue their scouting journey even though in-person meetings may not be possible for now. Go outside and play, take up a day hike on a trail near you, go for nature observation and enjoy the fresh air, helping your neighbors who may be in need, learn new outdoor skills on your own, or simply give each other a phone call.

While we are waiting for the storm to pass, please take care of yourself and your family, continue to do good work, and stay safe, until we are able to meet and enjoy each other's company by the campfire again.


JD Murphy, Southwest Regional Commissioner

Though the Southwest region wasn’t immediately affected by the pandemic, we are now fully in the throes of it. Many groups have gone on hiatus, though some groups have realized the capacity to move forward virtually. This doesn’t seem to work for everyone however and as such our own 183rd Tonkawa has also ceased virtual meetings as many of our non-neurotypical scouts had issues with them. We have however had Otters and Chipmunks join in virtual camp-ins with the 7th Trailblazers and have had our first Otter and Chipmunk virtual investitures at the most recent event! The Austin Conglomerated Rover crew continues to meet virtually every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month and every Rover in BPSA is invited. We have had scouts join us from Florida, Colorado and other places around the country. We post meeting links on our own Texas Rovers FB page as well as on the BPSA-US Leaders page and Lone Scouts page. We look forward to seeing more Rovers from places far afield join us in the future!

Here are a few words from some of our regional GSMs:

7th Trailblazers, Austin, TX

Since the shutdown of in-person scouting, the 7th has moved to a monthly "camp in" model, where we host a monthly event that offers both synchronous activities (via Zoom) as well as scout/parent-led asynchronous activities that go on throughout the day, giving scouts opportunities to both socialize and do badge work. We support that by doing porch deliveries of materials to scouts’ homes (s’mores kits in particular are a big hit). We are pleased to be able to offer the experience to all members of the 7th as well as other BPSA groups in the Austin area and beyond – last month we were pleased to welcome some members of the 150th Willamette! We look to continue to expand on this offering through the spring, if you are interested in having scouts from your group join, email Mark at gsm@7thTrailblazers.com.

13th Agauyaam Guan, San Antonio, TX

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, our group has worked to embrace virtual scouting. Through some creative virtual programming, and socially distanced outings, we were able to have four Otters, and one Timberwolf invested. In addition, five Rovers completed the virtual Texas Park and Wildlife Dept. Angler Educator Certification. We have continued to strengthen our friendships with every meeting and have even grown our numbers in the process. And with the start of the new year, we were finally able to present our scouts with their Scout @ Home badges! We are so proud of all that our group has achieved through these most difficult times, but we are looking forward to all the new outdoor and hopefully in-person adventures 2021 might bring.


Ethan Jewett, West Commissioner

Dan Bixler, CA District Commissioner

All of the BPSA active BPSA groups in Western Region are currently located in the three coastal states. The pandemic began in Seattle roughly a year ago, and both Oregon and California quickly mirrored the broad closures and restrictions in Washington. Scout groups largely went in to hiatus, with some sections continuing to meet via Zoom meeting. Groups were just beginning to get together in-person this fall when a surge in cases led to bans on gatherings once again. Many groups are still sorting out when they will attempt to really restart scouting, how/when to deal with registrations, and some sadly have expressed that they may close down. Groups that are conducting COVID-safe meetings are finding that scouts, after months apart, really relish the opportunity to connect and scout, even if it can’t always be in person.

On the training front, all spring BTCs were canceled, as was an optimistic plan to hold the usual fall BTC in the PNW. If the pandemic situation improves, which is looking a bit less likely with the UK variant entering the picture, we would like to hold a limited capacity BTC the second weekend of April either at Millersylvania SP (our usual PNW venue) or Bull Run Education Center (a private fallback option). A Northern California BTC will wait for a substantial change in that state’s infection rate and closures.

Some fun news from Western Groups:

1. The 124th Redwood Rangers in Arcata CA applied for and received another substantial programing and gear grant from the Simpson Family Fund, which they used in part to purchase a gear trailer with a sharp BPSA graphics wrap.

2. The 98th Rainier in South Seattle completed a GoFundMe and was able to purchase a brand new aluminum canoe trailer for their growing fleet of canoes and kayaks.

3. 636th Mt Tabor and 45th Columbia River Scouts met up for physically distanced games and Pathfinder bingo

4. The 55th Cascadia’s scouts managed to participate in a number of outdoor service projects with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, and they named Pathfinder Lena Horton their 2020 “Sloughper Hero” for her amazing attitude and work during the annual slough cleanup. "Lena spared no effort in her tenacious pursuit of every piece of garbage, large or small, no matter how mired, that she came across on that momentous day of stewardship.”

Lena receiving her trophy, made from a My Little Pony recovered from the slough
Lena and Rover dad Harley during the cleanup


We want to share what's going on with YOUR group. Got an idea for an article? Great video of a recent skit or song? Photos from an event? Please submit to commissionernortheast@bpsa-us.org. Deadline for the next newsletter is March 15.

Your national staff

National staff changes

Cynthia Kwan has generously volunteered to take on the critical role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Commissioner after serving several years as Technology Commissioner. We're looking forward to Cindy's leadership as we work to learn the lessons from 2020 and do better at living our motto of "Scouting for ALL."

Amanda Beck, from the 7th Trailblazers, decided to step back from her position as Communications Commissioner at the beginning of the year. We're still working out how we will fulfill those responsibilities going forward. In the meantime, if you have any questions on BPSA-US communications, feel free to reach out to Chief Commissioner Amber Wiley at hq@bpsa-us.org

National committees

Coming out of our re-naming announcement and subsequent national survey, we have 2 new national committees forming that are looking for members and volunteers: the Re-Naming Committee and the Survey Action Committee. Please reach out and let us know if you're interested in one of these opportunities to "pay it forward" for all of our adult and youth scouts!

Re-Naming Committee

The Re-naming Committee will kick off in February, to review name suggestions, promote internal discussion on the options, review considerations, and present recommendations to the board of directors. Peter Adrian of the 45th Columbia River is coordinating, and we anticipates a 3-month commitment. We are strongly looking for diversity of backgrounds, regions, and views for this committee. Interested? Contact Peter Adrian at mstrpete@gmail.com or by messaging him on Facebook.

Survey Action Committee

The Survey Action Committee is coordinating short-term tasks to address some of the issues identified in the survey. If you have some availability to help with discreet projects such as updating or reviewing texts, creating a new leader resource around a topic, or develop marketing materials, you can volunteer by signing up at https://bpsa-us.org/volunteer/

In addition to the forming committees, here is the list of currently active national committees:

Created By
Jeff Welch