The fourth in a series designed to help Scout families, Scouts and those new to Scouting better understand what Scouting is, how it works, and how to get the most out of the experience. For past articles, see back issues of The Guide. Written by Paul Shrode, Bay-Lakes Council Family Friends of Scouting Chair, Member of the Board of Directors and Gathering Waters District Chair. Contact Paul at

So What is Crossing Over and How is Scouts BSA Different From Cub Scouting?

It is that season when winter begins to give way to spring, the ice begins melting on the lakes and early spring flowers begin poking up, all signs that time is passing and the world is moving on. Scouting has its signs as well, and one of the most significant is the annual “Crossing Over” process. <continued>
As Cub Scouts move into Fifth grade, they complete their Arrow of Light (AOL) award and select a Scouts BSA troop. This is an exciting moment for the AOL scout and his or her family. Each scout should visit  several Scouts BSA troops and participate in some of their outings and activities in order to find one that  meets their interests. A ceremony is organized between the Pack and Troop to signify the end of the Cub Scouting experience and the beginning of Scouts BSA.
The ceremony usually involves some recognition  of all that the Cub Scout has experienced and presentation of the Arrow of Light (AOL) award. The AOL scout customarily moves across a wooden bridge with his or her family symbolizing the passage into Scouts BSA. On the  other side, the scout is welcomed by the chosen troop. It is tradition that the parents or others  remove the Cub Scout-level neckerchief and the troop replaces it with a troop neckerchief. (In some cases, the neckerchief slide is affixed upside down and in other cases it is withheld until the new scout does a good turn helping someone else. Then the scout can turn the slide right side up or receive his Scouts BSA slide.) As the highest award a Cub Scout can receive, the AOL badge can be worn on the Scouts BSA uniform. In addition to the neckerchief, Scouts should obtain green loops for their shoulders and change out the unit number from the Pack to their troop.
Scouts BSA units operate differently from Cub Scout Packs. In Cub Scouting, Dens represent age cohorts and are led by parents with support from other adult leaders. In Scouts BSA troops, Scouts are organized into Patrols, usually representing scouts of different ages. Younger Scouts learn from older Scouts. Each Patrol selects leaders who join together to form a Patrol Leaders’ Council which is led by the Senior Patrol Leader and other troop officers who are also elected by the Scouts. Troops work toward being “Scout led” meaning that the scouts take significant responsibility for planning and facilitating meetings, troop operations, and working with adult leaders to develop programs and outings.
Leadership development is a key component of the Scouts BSA experience, and the troop provides both training and support as young leaders assume their roles. New Scouts begin to learn the skills, history, traditions and customs of Scouting and their troop by earning their Scout award, then move on to rank advancement with Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class. These early ranks build leadership, outdoor, camping, safety and first aid, cooking and other skills, introduce community service and care of natural resources, and provide many skills that will serve the Scout through life. They may also earn merit badges which focus on a particular set of skills or career interests. Merit badges are required for the higher ranks of Star, Life and ultimately Eagle Scout.
Parents also play a different role within the structure of a troop. A troop or parent committee oversees planning and operation and provides support, transportation, and helps with advancement, but Scouting does not require or expect parents to be as directly engaged in delivering the program as is the case in Cub Scouting. Still, there are roles for committee members, merit badge counselors, committee  leadership and registered adult leader positions, so there is plenty of room for interested parents to become involved.
Crossing over is an exciting time and the beginning of many new adventures. New Scouts are encouraged to participate in troop outings and campouts, summer camp, and other troop meetings and activities. Generally, those who attend summer camp and form bonds with the other scouts in the troop will persist in Scouting and gain so much more from the experience. As each Webelos crosses over, a new youth application needs to be completed. There is no cost to transfer from one unit to another and the Scout’s membership number and records move along with the Scout. We encourage every Arrow of Light Scout to continue in Scouting and experience fully what Scouting has to offer.