For over a century, Scouts and Guides have been educating and shaping young boys and girls worldwide. However, with their origins intertwined and the lessons and values of both closely aligned, working out which one to sign your child up to can be a little confusing for some parents. So, what are the main differences between Scouts and Guides? We break down both of them and get the answers to all of your questions below.
Where it all began – the history of Scouts and Guides
Following a childhood filled with adventurous outdoor play and a career as a solider in the British Army, Lord Robert Baden-Powell founded the concept of Scouts in 1907. With an initial desire to train fellow soldiers in the art of ‘scouting’, Baden-Powell eventually created camps for young boys from all walks of life, with the idea to teach them valuable outdoor and life skills. They lived in tents, cooked their own food and learnt many essential skills through games. Writing down his experiences in a book, in 1908 Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys was published in fortnightly parts and very quickly became a much-anticipated best-seller. And thus the international Scouts movement was born. Scouting spread to Australia, New Zealand and India in 1908 and other countries followed shortly after.
Two years later, Baden-Powell’s sister, Agnes, formed Girl Guides. Although it followed a similar framework as scouts, Girl Guides was female-focussed and only for girls.
Scouts have come a long way in the century since it first began. Now open to boys and girls, Scouts have over 1300 groups in Australia alone. All Scouts in Australia make the Australian Scout Promise and agree to follow the Australian Scout Law, which outlines their values and are the foundations of the Scouting program. With around 70,000 members, it is one of Australia’s largest youth development organisations.
Today’s Scouts can take part in an extraordinary variety of outdoor activities, from ‘traditional Scouting skills such as camping and bushcraft, to more extreme challenges such as abseiling, overnight hiking, rafting, canoeing, canyoning, snow activities, rock climbing, sailing… even flying!
Scouts offer an Award Scheme that encourages participation in the full range of activities available and provides recognition of individual achievement.
Girl Guides Australia
Girl Guides offer girls aged 5-17 years a unique girl-led experience – a safe, welcoming girl-only space where girls experience a great variety of activities aimed at helping girls to become confident young women. The Australian Guide Program comprises adventures, leadership opportunities, badges and the chance to give back to communities. They can learn new skills and grow in confidence by challenging themselves as Brisbane girl guides.
Members of Girl Guides can choose activities, badges, certificates and Awards to work towards and earn as part of the Girl Recognition System. Their trained volunteer, Girl Guide Leaders, create space for girls to learn about themselves and their place in their community and the world. Weekly Unit meetings, camps, and adventure-based and community service activities make up the Girl Guiding experience.
The Differences Between Scouts and Guides
The similarities between scouts and guides are apparent. Aside from the fact that a brother and sister founded them originally based on the same concept, they offer many of the same experiences. Each group has programs that teach valuable, hands-on lessons to children. They both offer practical experiences and life lessons, each earning awards and badges based on individual and team goals and experiences that have been met. So, what are the differences then? Below we answer some of the main questions people want to know about how the Scouts and Girl Guides programs work.
Who Can Join?
Whilst Scouts was initially created only for boys, over the years this has changed and both sexes are now welcomed equally into the program. Girl Guides, however, is only for girls, stating that it offers a safe and free environment for girls to grow and learn together.
What age can you join?
Both Scouts and Girl Guides allow children to join from age 5.
Do they have separate groups based on age?
Scouts groups are broken up into different sections, based on your child’s age. These include Joey Scouts (5-8 years), Cub Scouts (8-11 years), Scouts (11-14 years), Venturer Scouts (15-18 years), Rover Scouts (18-25 years).
Girl Guides are no longer specifically broken down into designated age groups. If you join Girl Guides between 5-17 you will be a youth member and placed into a Unit.
Both Scouts and Girl Guides have units (your local group), where members will be put into smaller youth led, adult supported teams (Patrols) where experiences are shared.
Can adults join?
In Scouts, adults are welcome to join as team leaders or volunteers. There are also scouting programs designed to cater to members up to 25.
You can be an adult member of Girl Guides in several capacities. You can be a member of the Olaves (18-29 years) which focuses on the three aspects of community, adventure and self-development. Or you can join as a leader or volunteer.
Promise and Law
Both Scouts and Girl Guides make a promise on joining and follow a particular ‘law’, which outlines their values, and are the foundations of their program.
Where Scouts make the Australian Scout Promise and agree to follow the Australian Scout Law, Girl Guides make the Promise and follow the Guide Law.
Do they wear a uniform?
Both Scouts and Girl Guides wear uniforms.
Do they do awards and badges?
Yes. In both Scouts and Girl Guides, members can work towards achieving a wide range of badges, depending on their interests.
Many different Girl Guide badges can be earned as part of the Girl Recognition System. Some allow for selecting preferred clauses and others require a certain skill level. Some can be completed in the unit, and others as personal challenges.
Scouts have a series of challenges aimed at their age group, which allows them to strive to earn a badge in a fun and achievable way. Scouts participate in the Achievement Pathways and are given badges to recognise their achievements. The Achievement Pathways are a continuous series of personal achievements throughout the program.
What activities do they do?
Both Scouts and Girl Guides have a wide range of adventurous activities that they can be involved in, such as canoeing, archery, abseiling, camping, skiing, hiking overnight, cooking damper over a fire or just sitting around a campfire singing, chatting and sharing a joke. Girl Guides also have some fashion and domestic-focused activities too.