New Scouts sections are set to launch in Dundee and Fife, with chief Scout Bear Grylls welcoming four and five-year-olds for the first time.
The age range for Scouts has gone unchanged for the last 35 years, but in a bid to help children and young people post-pandemic, the organisation has launched its “Squirrel” programme.
Aimed at children aged four and five, the sessions will help them learn new skills, make friends, and earn badges, just like members of the Cubs and Scouts do.
The programme rollout begins this month, with a nationwide callout for volunteers launched to help young people learn skills for life after lockdown.
Squirrel groups will be launched in Dundee as well as in Fife, where three groups will be organised in Kelty, Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath.
George Walker, a Squirrels group leader from Dundee, said he was excited to bring the new group to the city.
He told The Courier: “We are really excited to start out an exciting new opportunity to open a Squirrels drey [nest].
“The programme is built to help four and five year olds develop teamwork, communication and creativity.
“It’s going to be great to get these young people together to have fun, make new friends and earn badges.”
Welcoming the younger children was chief Scout and adventurer Bear Grylls, who called on adults to volunteer with the organisation.
“I’m so glad that younger children will now have the chance to join our family of Scouts and develop skills for life,” he said.
“We know from our pilot programme that four and five year-olds can really benefit from the activities Squirrels offers.”
He said that he hoped offering the programme to children at an early age would have a long-lasting and positive impact.
“To make this work we need more volunteers to join the team and donors to get behind us,” Bear Grylls added.
The emphasis in the groups will be on outdoor adventures, making new friends and learning new skills which will be recognised by a new set of badges.
Katie Docherty, chief executive of Scouts Scotland pointed out that young people aged four had spent a third of their life in lockdown.
“Squirrels is part of our commitment to help young people, families and communities come back stronger from the pandemic,” she said.
Katy added: “Our mission at Scouts is to equip young people with skills for life, and we know how important early years is in terms of developing these skills.”
Four-year-olds have spent a third of life in lockdown
Three out of four of the new groups in Dundee and Fife will open in areas ranked amongst Scotland’s most deprived areas.
Katy added: “We know this has especially impacted children in communities hardest hit by the pandemic.”
“That’s why we are opening the first Squirrel dreys in those communities that need it most.”
Another local volunteer, Janis McCulloch, said it had been brilliant to watch her eldest daughter’s confidence grow as a member of the Scouts.
Dundee and Fife Scout leaders welcome new group
Janis, who volunteers with the 39th Fife Scouts, said: “I can’t wait to start our Squirrel drey in Dunfermline.
“My eldest daughter Jess is in the Cubs and it’s been brilliant to see her confidence develop over the last few years.
“I’m really excited for my four-year-old, Emily, to start with the group, I know she’s going to love it.
“I’m also really excited to take on a new volunteering challenge.”