As many of our friends and Brooklyn families know, 5th Brooklyn Scouts, a co-ed, gender equal Scout group, have been operating at capacity for some time, and have been forced to start a waiting list, unable to take all the families who want to join. For the past year, we have been exploring options to increase our capacity. We started in early 2016 by creating a second Timberwolf Pack, which increased the number of 8-10 year old Scouts we can accommodate thanks to the work of our two Akelas – but even with two packs, our Timberwolf and Otter sections have been at capacity for the 2016-2017 season.
So what’s the plan?
We have decided to spin off a second B-PSA Scout Group in Brooklyn, to be called 67th Wallabout Bay, based out of the Free School in Fort Greene. (Wallabout Bay is the body of water currently home to the Navy Yard). This will be a second all-inclusive Scouting group in Brooklyn, welcoming all Scouts and their families regardless of gender orientation or identity. We will also continue to focus on our current missions of outdoors experience and community service. This gives more Scouts a chance to grow from Otter (grades K-2) to Timberwolf (grades 3 – 5) to Pathfinder (grades 6 and up) and even beyond to Rover. (age 18+). For more information on B-PSA (our parent organization) and a sneak peek at the programs for each level of Scout, you can visit www.bpsa-us.org
Since the new Wallabout Bay group will serve neighborhoods north of our current base in Park Slope, the existing 5th Brooklyn group will be re-named 5th Prospect Park to better reflect our neighborhood identity. Both groups will be part of a new parent organization called simply Brooklyn Scouts, which will have one Board of Directors, and will be responsible for all the administration such as our the 501(c)(3) status and insurance policy. It is our goal to have this organization in Brooklyn will extend to at least one more neighborhood group in the next two years.
Who will run the new group?
After four years as a founding leader (two as Otter Raft leader and two as Group Scoutmaster) for 5th Brooklyn, I will leave to serve as the Group Scoutmaster (GSM) for the 67th. We also have Pathfinder leaders signed up: Kristin Axtman and Anthony Francis will lead the new Troop. We need at least 6 new adult leaders (3 leaders each for Otters and Timberwolves) to launch the new group, and without these volunteers, we will not launch on schedule. Leading is also a truly rewarding experience in itself. As a parent, it will also give you a chance to really engage in Scouting and share this adventure with your child(ren). You will also bring joy and a sense of accomplishment to all the Scouts you work with. Leadership requires about 1 – 2 hours per week of meeting planning and meeting leadership every two weeks and does not require past Scouting or outdoors experience. (Some of our best leaders literally did not know how to put up a tent when they started. True story)
To encourage parent volunteers to join us as soon as possible, we will admit families with adults committed to serve as Wallabout Bay section leaders in January, 2017. These leaders and their children may join the existing 5th Brooklyn group for February, March and April so they can train with our existing Raft and Pack before switching to the new Group in April, 2017. This will allow our new leaders & their families to also attend our annual Frost Valley YMCA winter camp (sleeping in cabins!), which is considered the high point of the Scouting year.
For all parents who are joining as non-leaders, Brooklyn Scouts is a co-op model and will require all parents to volunteer. We will hold a meeting to review the group structure and volunteer roles on January 26th at the BSEC (53 Prospect Park West) The volunteer roles include fundraising, administration, camp planning & execution, service project organization, quartermaster (gear management), grubmaster (camp food planning) and many more roles that can be done on a more flexible schedule. (The camp roles are done all at once around our 3 annual outdoor camping trips) Non-leader parents will join the new troop in late April of 2017 when we start regular meetings.
For more information on what goes into being a leader or volunteer see our updated Q&As in the new blog post here
What are my next steps?
Sign up on the Google signup form here (link: https://goo.gl/forms/cqgxA2TzYAevT5o52) to be in the first round of families joining the 67th Wallabout Bay. Then put January 26th on your calendar for our parent meeting! (Future Scouts can join too – we will have them play games in a side room) If you have friends who are interested in joining us, please also let them know to sign up for our MailChimp email list (http://eepurl.com/3yWkj).
By the way, what’s the difference between “Group” and “Troop” and “Raft”?
“Group” refers to each individual Scouting organization chartered with the BPSA. Examples: 5th Brooklyn, 91st Sojourners, etc.
“Section” refers to each level within the Group: Otter Raft, Timberwolf Pack, and Pathfinder Troop. Chipmunks are not yet an officially-recognized Section under the BPSA, although it will continue to serve younger siblings of Scouts in the other Sections.
We have friends in the current group. Does this make enough space for my child to join them there?
Unfortunately, no. The current Prospect Park based group is beyond recommended capacity, resulting in a lesser experience for our Scouts and leaders. Even if some of our Scouts “transfer”, given our 90% retention rate, and the number of younger Scouts aging into each section this summer, we still expect to be at or close to capacity for the foreseeable future. 67th Wallabout Bay will therefore be the only Brooklyn Scout group accepting new Scouts until the fall of 2018. If your family has friends in the Prospect Park based group, existing Scouts are welcome to transfer to the Wallabout Bay group to keep good friends together.
For more questions on wait listing for Prospect Park, please see the updated Q&A blog post
Will the two Rafts/Packs/Troops/Groups work together?
We expect the two groups to work individually most of the year as it’s simply not feasible to coordinate the activity of so many Scouts. We will try to participate together in weekend events like service projects, park visits, community events and parades as a unified Brooklyn Scouts presence. We will also hold training events for our Pathfinders and Rovers (Leaders) as a single group. Our big event will be one shared camp a year called a “Hullabaloo”. We are already participating in the Moot, which is a shared camp with other BPSA Groups throughout the Northeast, and hope that the Hullabaloo can be just as much fun.
What’s the next step after this?
There are no firm plans for a third Group, but once 5th Prospect Park and 67th Wallabout Bay are up and running smoothly, we plan to expand to a new area in Brooklyn, with an eye on expanding our diversity and bringing the BPSA program to kids who could benefit from it.
I still have more questions about committing as a leader, and about signing up for one or the other groups.
We have answers for your questions on a new blog post here!
We believe this plan gives us the greatest chance of expanding in a successful and stable manner, and look forward to answering any questions you may have. Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or feedback at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in traditional Scouting,
5th Brooklyn Scouts