The Boy Scout troop at Johns Hopkins is just like all others, except for one small detail: It has direct access to the brainpower of a first-class research university.
In addition to the usual meetings and camping trips, Troop 1 calls on a campus full of Ph.D. scholars and graduate students to enhance the cerebral dimension of Scouting.
Once a month, Scouts are treated to an educational or cultural activity, such as a hands-on astronomy session, or a seminar to learn about different forms of music, taught to them by Hopkins staff, faculty and students.
"The talent at Hopkins is so rich, and what faculty members do both professionally and in their personal lives gives us an unlimited pool to tap into," said Gary Ostrander, associate dean for research of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "What we are trying to do here is expose kids to career opportunities that they might not otherwise learn about."
Douglas Green, associate dean for research of the Whiting School of Engineering, conceived of the idea to start a Boy Scout troop at Hopkins. Then he enlisted Ostrander's help.
Both men were well-suited for the job: They were Eagle Scouts themselves and had remained active in Scouting as adults.
Although the troop officially began nearly a year ago, its charter was not formally presented to the university until last week. Hopkins trustee Norman Augustine, a former national president of the Boy Scouts of America, handed the plaque to President William R. Brody on Dec. 8.
The Scout troop apparently has broken new ground.
"It is the only one that we are aware of in the United States that is actually resident at and is sponsored by a university," Ostrander said. "Typically Boy Scout troops are sponsored by elementary schools, or churches, or American Legion posts."
The troop, which is self-supported financially, is coordinated through the office of Chaplain Sharon Kugler.
Soon word about its existence spread across campus, and Hopkins students started inquiring. Before long, they began volunteering to help lead the troop.
"The point is, you've got Scouters from around the country who just happen to be students at Hopkins, and now they want to get involved in Scouting again," said Green, who played a hand in naming the troop No. 1.
He didn't like the idea of taking the next troop number available, which "was up in the hundreds," so he asked the local Boy Scouts leadership whether he could use a defunct troop's number.
By chance, No. 1 was not presently assigned to any troop in the area.
"It just sort of fits with Hopkins' notion about where we want to be in the world," Green said. "No. 1 seems pretty good."