Co-ed Scouting skills and fun comes to Vanderhoof

Girls, along with boys, can now join the international movement that promises adventure, outdoor experience, and fun.

Scouts from the 1st Lake Cowichan Scout Group learned to build a rope bridge as an outdoor skill learned through the Scouting program. The co-ed group was also established by Becca Shears

Scouts from the 1st Lake Cowichan Scout Group learned to build a rope bridge as an outdoor skill learned through the Scouting program. The co-ed group was also established by Becca Shears

Girls — some might say the fairer half of Vanderhoof’s youth — along with boys, can now join the international movement that promises adventure, outdoor experience, and fun.

This September, the new 4th Vanderhoof Scout Group is looking to offer co-ed Scouting programs for kids aged five to 14, depending on volunteer availability, explained group commissioner Becca Shears.

Four months ago, Shears moved with her family to Vanderhoof from Lake Cowichan — a 3,000-strong community on Vancouver Island — where she and her husband Kyle Althaus also started the 1st Lake Cowichan Scout Group with success.

Though Althaus grew up in Scouting, Shears first got involved when her children were in Beaver and Cub-age  — the name Beavers refer to scouts aged five to seven and Cubs for those aged eight to 11, she said.

Her daughter met a Beaver Scout girl and realized that the program includes activities such as fire building.

“She’s not really a girly girl, so didn’t want to do [Girl Guides of Canada].” Shears recounted. “Beavers got to learn how to build their own campfires and cook their own meal.”

She added that different Girl Guides and Scouts groups may have different foci in their programs, but the scout group in her family’s area at the time was offering more skill-based development opportunities such as surviving in the wild.

“I think having [Scouting] for girls is really important as well,” Shears said.

Though Scouts Canada, a non-profit organization and member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement that started in Britain in 1907, only became completely co-ed in 1998, girls were unofficially forming Scout patrols since the beginning, according to Scout Canada’s publication in celebrating 10 years of co-ed Scouting.

“Girls should be brought up to be comrades and helpers, not to be dolls,” said the movement’s founder Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell in 1910.

During the same year, Baden-Powell started the Girl Guides movement with help from his sister Agnes.

So far, the Vanderhoof community has been responsive, with 36 families contacting Shears through social media after the group’s initial call-out in April and an information meeting on May 10 in Evelyn Dickson Elementary’s library.

The Scout program involves one weekly meeting and a weekend trip once a month during the school year, but more volunteer leaders – called Scouters — are needed in order for the Group to start this year, Shears explained.

The new group also stresses non-affiliation with religious organizations, as it seemed to be a concern for some families who expressed interest.

“In the Scouting program, you do honour God, but as you understand him/her/it,” Shears said. “[Scouting founder Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell] was a Christian, and he believed that honouring God was part of honouring nature.

“Every program gets to focus on that as strongly or weakly as they want to.”

In the district, Vanderhoof currently has two boys-only Scout groups run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints.

As church groups, the 2nd and 3rd Vanderhoof LDS Scout Groups received special permission from Scouts Canada to restrict their membership, said Orenda Jarman, the 2nd Vanderhoof group’s Cub section leader.

Jarman added that the groups also differ from others as they do not organize overnight camping with their Scouts until age 11, but outdoor experience remains the program’s focus with many hiking opportunities — including the opportunity to climb a mountain in the area every year.

Past Scout activities also include camping in Haida Gwaii, community garbage pickup, as well as educational visits to service groups in Prince George.

 

More information on the new Scout group in Vanderhoof can be found on the Facebook page “Vanderhoof Scouts.”