Along with the back to school season comes a plethora of extracurricular fun. From music to art to sports, Seattle kids can fill their free time with a variety of activities. And for those kids looking for new adventures, outdoor experiences and lasting friendships, scouting organizations and youth development groups offer lots of character and confidence building activities along with tons of fun and great memories. But which one – if any – is right for your kid? Read on to earn your Red Tricycle merit badge in scouting and more.
photo: Christine Southam
Girl Scouts of Western Washington
Who can join? Girls ages 5-18 in kindergarten though high school. Girls start as Daisies (K-1st grade), then become Brownies (grades 2-5) and on to Girl Scouts.
Mission: Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.
What is it? Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low started the first Girl Scout troop in 1912 with the firm belief that girls could change the world. Over 100 years later, there are more than two million Girl Scouts in the USA and thousands of adult volunteers. Girl Scouts of the USA is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.
Activities: Girls in K-5th grade join a troop, learn new skills and earn badges for completing activities; Daisies earn petals. At a troop meeting, Daisies and Brownies play games, sing songs and have lots of fun being together. Activities include hiking, camping, geocaching, planting gardens, sports clinics, STEM activities and community service projects. Brownies usually have their first overnight camp experience with Girl Scout summer camps. At Camp River Ranch, located in the Cascade Foothills, girls participate in a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, rock-climbing, archery, horseback riding, water activities and more. Then, there’s the Girl Scout Cookie program – it’s not just a fundraising opportunity; girls learn to run their own cookie business. Older Girl Scouts have opportunities to travel the world and earn college scholarships and can also take part in the Girl Scout Park Ranger Program. The highest achievement in Girl Scouting is the Gold Award, which challenges girls to change the world – or at least their particular corner of it.
Volunteering: Parents and families can volunteer at meetings, chaperon field trips or even become troop leaders. As a volunteer, you’ll become a role model for the girls, helping them develop skills and confidence while having a lot of fun.
Uniform: The Girl Scout uniform is flexible and affordable. Girl Scouts wear a tunic, vest or sash on which they can proudly display all the pins and awards they’ve earned. Girls can mix and match pieces from the official Girl Scout collection or add items from their own wardrobes.
Fun Fact: Thin Mints are the most popular variety of Girl Scout Cookies sold, followed by Samoas and Tagalongs.
Girl Scouts of Western Washington
Girl Scouts of the USA
photo: Jihyun Andersen
Boy Scouts of America – Chief Seattle Council
Who can join? Boys ages 7-18 in first grade through high school. Boys start as Cub Scouts (grades 1-5) and move on to Boy Scouts (6th grade 6-high school). The Boy Scouts of America also offers a program called Venturing for both boys and girls ages 14-20.
Mission: To prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
What is it? When Robert Baden-Powell’s book Scouting for Boys hit British booksellers’ shelves in 1908, the worldwide scouting movement was born. The Boy Scouts of America provides boys with programs and activities that build self-confidence and ethical standards, and encourages boys to try new things and provide service to others.
Activities: Cub Scouts join a pack and have fun while learning invaluable skills for life. Cubs progress through ranks each year (from Bobcat to The Arrow of Light) while learning new skills as they go—from cooking a meal on a campfire and tying knots to sending and cracking secret codes. Cubs earn badges and adventure belt loops for their achievements. For many scouts, highlights of the program include camping, earning badges, making new friends, achieving higher ranks and the annual pine car derby. Boy Scouts of America is now inclusive, so both moms and dads can be troop leaders. When boys move from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, service, community engagement and leadership skills become increasingly important parts of the program and boys can work their way towards earning the highest scouting rank, Eagle Scout.
Volunteering: Families have the opportunity to be involved with scouting and are encouraged to become “a scouting family.” There’s plenty of ways to help out from volunteering with the pack to leading activities at home.
Uniform: Cub Scouts wear short or long-sleeved shirts with shorts or switchback pants (that convert into shorts). They also wear a neckerchief and slide and a cap with their rank insignia.
Fun Fact: There are Boy Scouts in all but six countries of the world.
Chief Sealth Council (serving Clallam, Jefferson, King, Kitsap and North Mason counties)
Boy Scouts of America
photo: Camp Fire Facebook page
Camp Fire – Central Puget Sound
Who can join? Boys and girls ages 3-18. Kids start as Little Stars (ages 3 through Pre-K), then move on to Starlight Clubs (K-2nd grade), Adventure (grades 3-5), Discovery (grades 6-8) and Horizon (grades 9-12).
Mission: Camp Fire inspires and enables youth of all backgrounds and abilities to discover their spark, value the natural world and become tomorrow’s leaders, today.
What is it? Camp Fire was founded in 1910 by husband and wife Luther and Charlotte Gulick “to guide young people on their journey to self-discovery.” Today, Camp Fire still provides a nurturing, constructive and fun environment for kids to discover their “sparks” — unique skills, passions and interests.
Activities: Kids join a small group of 6-12 members that meet during the school year. Camp Fire groups aren’t as numerous as scouting groups, so you may want to think about starting one in your community. Camp Fire encourages kids to make new friends and brings families closer together. Kids explore the great outdoors, get creative and volunteer in their community – all while having fun and earning emblems. Camp Fire offers lots of summer camps and programs where campers learn about the environment while enjoying outdoor activities like canoeing, swimming, archery and hiking. Camp Fire of Central Puget Sound owns and operates two camps – Camp Sealth on Vashon Island and Camp Niwana near Port Orchard. Camp Sealth is over 400 acres and has a private beach (great for environmental education). They also offer fun day camps all around Puget Sound. Each year, kids sell Campfire Candy to raise money, so families in need can enjoy the benefits of Camp Fire too. Plus, kids who stay active in Camp Fire through high school have the opportunity to earn their WoHeLo (Work, Health, and Love) Award, the highest honor that a Camp Fire member can attain.
Volunteering: There are all kinds of ways for volunteers to make a meaningful difference with Camp Fire. From event planning to fundraising, volunteers are always welcome and needed.
Uniform: Little Stars wear a red sash and earn emblems to put on it. Members of Starflight Clubs wear a red vest and earn emblems. Adventure Clubs wear a blue vest and earn beads and emblems. Discovery and Horizon Youth design their own ceremonial costume to display all their awards and wear on special occasions. They also pick their own uniform of a Camp Fire Shirt and jeans or khaki pants to wear for regular meetings.
Fun Fact: 86% of Camp Fire kids say that Camp Fire gave them the opportunity to try things they had never tried before.
Camp Fire Central Puget Sound
photo: Navigators USA, Chapter 41 Facebook page
Who can join? Boys and girls ages 5-18. Junior Navigators is for kids ages 5-10 and Senior Navigators is for ages 11-18.
Mission: To teach future generations how to navigate the challenges of living outdoors while navigating the conflicts that arise through human interaction. By teaching the young how to think for themselves, while collaborating with others, they can achieve anything.
What is it? Navigators USA was founded in 2003 to give families another option for a scouting experience, outside of the traditional Boy and Girl Scouts. Navigators teaches many of the same skills and values as traditional scouting organizations, while emphasizing diversity, inclusion and group problem solving.
Activities: Junior Navigators enjoy games, crafts, field trips, nature walks and camping. There are three levels of Junior Navigators: Mira (ages 7-8) where kids learn about the world through fun studies and projects; Vega (ages 8-9) where Junior Navigators take on community projects, overnight camping and skill building activities; and Polaris (ages 9-10) where kids learn about the Moral Compass of Navigators USA. Psst! A Stargazers level for ages 5-6 will be introduced in the near future. Senior Navigators advance through the levels based on their experience and knowledge. And Senior Navigators build self-esteem, respect for others and independence through camping trips, hiking adventures, games, activities and community service. The highest honor for a Navigator is the Summit Achievement Award – it’s the equivalent of an Eagle Scout.
Volunteering: There are three Navigators chapters in the Puget Sound area (Seattle, Issaquah and Woodinville). If there isn’t one near you, you may want to consider starting a chapter in your community.
Uniform: Navigators wear Navigators t-shirts, caps, and bandannas available from the Navigators USA Store.
Fun Fact: Navigators USA was founded by Boy Scouts of America Troop 103 in East Harlem, NY – the first scout troop to be started in a shelter serving homeless families.
photo: 4-H Facebook page
Who can join? Boys and girls ages 8-18.
Mission: 4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults.
What is it? The first 4-H club was started in 1912 and now serves over six million 4-H members in the USA. Working with universities, 4-H programs offer life-changing experiences to kids around the world. In our area, 4-H works in partnership with Washington State University King County Extension.
Activities: Head, heart, hands and health are the four Hs in 4-H. 4-H kids learn by doing—working on the four Hs through fun and engaging activities including science experiments (like the rocket testing in the photo above), veterinary science (including special dog and horse projects), photography, gardening, ecology, textiles and cooking. There are Community 4-H clubs (which focus on a variety of activities) and Project 4-H clubs which focus on one project area like Seattle’s Cooped Up in Seattle, a 4-H club that’s all about urban farming.
Volunteering: Families are encouraged to volunteer in 4-H activities and programs. From organizing county fair exhibits to field trips, there are plenty of opportunities to become involved.
Uniform: There is no uniform required for 4-H’rs, although clubs often like to wear 4-H t-shirts, hats and other apparel bought at the 4-H Mall.
Fun Fact: 4-H is not just for farmers! Many people think 4-H is a rural organization, but the club is in many urban settings and offers lots of programs that don’t involve being down on the farm including film-making and theatre arts.
4-H King County
900 Oaksdale Ave. S.W., Ste. 150
Renton, Wa 98057
Do you have a Brownie, Cub Scout or other outdoor adventurer in the fam? Tell us about your kiddo’s experiences in the Comments below.
— Helen Walker Green