FARGO - Some big changes are coming to the Boy Scouts of America in the next six months, and they're starting this fall, most notably the ability for girls to join the Cub Scout program.
After an Oct. 11, 2017, announcement by the Boy Scouts of America that the organization would allow girls to officially join the ranks, Fargo-Moorhead troops as well as the rest of the country will officially be welcoming girls into their packs.
Some local packs had already made the inclusive move in recent years to allow girls to join in before the change was announced. But now, their membership - and the membership of their female peers across the country - can be official.
"Girls have been attending meetings forever," said Brett Drevlow, an Eagle Scout and District Executive for the Northern Lights Council of Boy Scouts of America. "I remember when I was a Cub Scout, my sisters were always at my meetings. They were tabbed as unofficial Cub Scouts - the only difference was they weren't allowed to earn the awards. Now, this change would allow them to do that."
Within the Cub Scout pack, each grade forms dens that meet a few times a month, with each den focusing on grade-specific adventures, advancements and badges. With the introduction of girls in Cub Scouts, the curriculum will stay the same, but dens will now have the option to remain single-gendered or become co-ed.
Even the single-gendered dens could include both boys and girls in a way, though - once a month, the dens all meet as a pack for an all-grade, all-gender activity.
Kevin Mehrer, district director of the Northern Lights Council of Boy Scouts of America, said the change brings together the core focuses of Cub Scouts: family, fun and outdoors.
"The national branding (of Cub Scouts) is, 'Scout Me In,'" he said. "That really stands for 'Hey, my whole family is now welcome and participating at a Cub Scout event.' Now they can earn the awards, go to day camp and be part of the group."
This fall, eight Cub Scout packs in Fargo and seven in West Fargo will accept girls, he said.
Cub Scouts isn't the only group that will be earning badges and learning life skills, but it will be the first official group to do so.
While the change is happening now for Cub Scouts, the version of scouting for younger members, Boy Scouts of America plans to make the move in its other single-gendered program in 2019.
The Boy Scouts of America parent organization will not change its name, though its program for members 11 to 17 years old now know as Boy Scouts will officially change its name to Scouts BSA. That program will continue to offer scouting in single-gendered troops, allowing both boys and girls to work to earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
But before that happens, Cub Scouts will see another historic change this fall when kindergartners can join in a year earlier than the past as "Lions," a new den. Previously, Cub Scouts was open to members in first through fifth grade.
"In all of the dens, (the scouts) work on adventures and they work on advancements to earn overall rank," Mehrer said. "When you talk to kids, the No. 1 thing they want to do is get outside and go camping, go fishing, shoot a BB gun. That's what our program allows them to do. We are very excited about that."