Alternative to Boy Scouts

Our two boys were very excited to join the Cub/Boy Scouts. Because of their excitement and our desire as parents that they learn wilderness/outdoor/resilience skills, consistent with learning to thrive on one planet (see this brief post for the big picture of One Planet Thriving) that we urbanites couldn’t teach, we checked it out by going to a few meetings. Since it was the start of their season, our boys also got excited about selling popcorn and raising money for the prizes they could earn (e.g., legos, ipad).

The local group we met with was a really good group. The people we talked to had joined despite the national Boy Scouts prejudicial stance based on sexual orientation — LGBT are not welcome [UPDATE: This is no longer true. Effective January 1, 2014, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”]. They were upset by this stance, felt it didn’t support their values, and were working to change it from within. However, as we thought about it and began to learn more about other aspects of the organization, we kept feeling like many of the things knit into the scouts did not feel right or comfortable to us. Then there’s the recent discovery of 20 years of covering up child molestation. No organization is immune from people abusing their power and doing horrible things (we were comforted as parents by the Boy Scouts policy of never having one child alone with one adult), but covering it up?!!

So, we began to search for alternatives. We found four: (1) The Navigators, (2) Earth Champs, (3) Kids for Earth, (4) 4-H.

The Navigators is a group formed to be a kind of alternative Boy Scouts but based on tolerance of and cooperation with differences. They look well organized, with guide books, patches, a series of developmental steps, videos online to help people learn how to facilitate meetings, etc. The only problem, from our perspective, is that it doesn’t really have the planet as a focus.


Given that the planet is a critical foundation for all of lives, and that sustainability is important for the human species, we were attracted to the Earth Champs, called “Earth Scouts” before being sued by the Boy Scouts for the use of the word “scouts”. Earth Champs is the co-ed scouting branch of a larger organization with a larger mission, Earth Charter US (their tag line: Building a Sustainable Global Community). The charter is a declaration of interdependence recognizing that we are one human family and Earth community. It was written over a period of 12 years by 1000s of people from 78 countries to articulate their dream for a better world…wow! The preamble for the charter is worth reading:

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

The The-Earth-Charter-for-Children used in Earth Champs has adult and kid language and the Earth Champs patches are based on each of the 4 principles:

  1. Respect and Care for the Community of Life
  2. Ecological Integrity
  3. Social and Economic Justice
  4. Democracy, Non-violence, and Peace. (2 patches)

These are expressed in six phrases in kid language:

  1. Everybody matters so be kind to others
  2. Always shake hands and make-up
  3. Together we can make a difference
  4. Play fair and learn to share
  5. Everyone deserves to be heard
  6. Love nature and clean up your mess

The only thing that’s slightly intimidating is that there appears to be less structured activities and ideas from Earth Champs than Boy Scouts or Navigators…sigh. Still, instead of kind of feeling bad that our kids are being taught a set of values that don’t quite match ours, we find ourselves inspired instead.

There are handbooks downloadable from the Earth Champs site in the resources section that guide leaders through a meeting, give ideas for badge projects, and talk about things like the Earth Champs making their own belt and badge books. Curious to see whether rites of passage are explicitly mentioned. Also, we received an email from Natalie Allinder (Grace and Gratitude Wellness, www.graceandgratitude.biz). She is using Earth Champs and shares here thoughts on projects:

  • I use Captain Planet from the 1990’s, I explain reduce,reuse and repurpose, recycle, composting and let them do activities to distinguish which materials correlate with which principle. We will eventually take a field trip to a recycling facility about 40 minutes from our house. We are going to build a compost tumbler. I am going to bring their attention for a weeks before how much goes out into trash and recycling and how much is reduced when composting is in place.
  • Nutrition is a big part of what I believe in and want to impress upon them, so we will be growing wheatgrass on our kitchen table.
  • There are so many resources on the internet for activities. I recommend purchasing the book Earth Child 2000, as it is a fabulous resource. I am using a lot of what I already own as well.
  • Olivia Newton-John is an enormous inspiration for me and I have a children’s book she wrote and music she has written. The name of Olivia’s book is “A Pig’s Tale” and the songs are “Silver Rain” and “The Dolphin Song” from the Physical album and from her Gaia album, the songs “Don’t Cut Me Down”, “Gaia”, and “Silent Ruin”. Finally, “Let’s Talk About Tomorrow” from the album The Rumour.
  • Other books: “Ferngully: The Last Rain Forest” and most recently “The Lorax”
  • Camp outs and hikes and community service are all important to us as well. It is up to your discretion what will warrant gaining a badge. My thought is to come up with my own subjects and have buttons made that they can earn.
  • SO, after all of that, my best suggestion is to follow your heart, get out into nature, get your hands dirty and be passionate and have fun! If there are activities that you like from the boy scouts, use them and do it in your own way.
  • I hope this helps and keep in touch, maybe we can help each other in the future:)
    Kind Regards, Natalie Allinder

What about fundraising for groups like these to support scholarships and outings? Selling popcorn seems to work well for other groups, but Earth Champs popcorn should be organic, non-GMO, and ideally local. This presents a challenge. A search for flavored popcorns to sell of this kind led to zilch. Business opportunity?

Kids for Earth seems to be just starting up as indicated by this email reply from inquiries to Kids for Earth.

Thank you for your interest in Kids for Earth.  Like you, we believe
it is important to educate today’s children how to live sustainably so
that they may inherit a healthy world as adults and be able to pass
along a sustainable way of life for generations to come.

Kids for Earth, a subsidiary of United for Earth, is an organization
dedicated to learning how to live sustainably in the modern world.  We
are a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, and our mission
is to form local chapters of Kids for Earth throughout the world so
that you, as a parent, volunteer, or educator, can take a hands-on
leadership role in preparing children to be responsible and informed
stewards of the earth.

If you are receiving this email, it is because you expressed interest
in our programs by contacting info@earthscouts.net* or
contact@kidsforearth.org.  We apologize for the delay (in some cases,
quite a lengthy one).  We have been developing our team and our
programs so that we can provide you with the best possible materials
and support as we gear up for our official launch.

We are currently ready to launch our “beta” version of Kids for Earth,
and we invite you to join us by establishing a chapter of Kids for
Earth in your community. While we develop our headquarters on the web
(Ok, our website isn’t finished yet…), we will provide monthly
programs and structured activities via email.  Your participation is
both important and greatly appreciated.

If you would like to join our group of “early adopters” and hit the
ground running for our official launch, please fill out and return the
attached PDF form.  You will be eligible for a 25% membership discount
in perpetuity and will be providing an invaluable service by helping
us to further refine and test-pilot our programs.

If you have any question or need any clarification, please do not
hesitate to contact us anytime.  We look forward to hearing from you,

Colin Keegan, Communications Director, contact@kidsforearth.org, (202) 630-2013


4-H: Start or join a 4-H club.

4-H clubs have been around for a long time and urban, suburban, or rural boys and girls can participate. Here is an example of a group that did just that with a focus on homesteading and permaculture:

Suburban Homesteading 4-H Club

Location: Stanislaus County Ag Center, Modesto, CA (Harvest Hall), CA
Meeting: 9:30 AM, Every 4th Saturday of the month
Contact: Meg Kensler at 209-543-7743 suburbanhomesteading4h@gmail.com


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