Sydney Taylor, 9, waits for the signal, then runs to a table filled with assorted items: Water bottles, granola bars, a map ... a can of tennis balls, a stuffed whale.

"Let's see if you guys can figure out what you should bring on a hike," says Traci Siasat, a den leader for Cub Scout Pack 5239 in Bremerton.

Sydney grabs a ball cap for "sun protection."

Her sister Annabeth, 7, grabs a whistle. Other girls take their turns and before long, their backpack is filled with everything they'll need for an upcoming hike on the Clear Creek Trail.

The Taylor sisters are part of the first wave of girls in Kitsap County to join Cub Scouts since the Boys Scouts of America announced in October it would become gender inclusive.

Brianna Richie, 8, center, and Sebastian Potter, 9, were part of a recent Cub Scout hike on Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale. Group activities are co-ed, but for now, Cub Scout dens will remain single-gender. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)
Brianna Richie, 8, center, and Sebastian Potter, 9, were part of a recent Cub Scout hike on Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale. Group activities are co-ed, but for now, Cub Scout dens will remain single-gender. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

"I wanted to try new things with girls and boys so I could be smarter and learn how to do things," Annabelle said.

Sydney was inspired to join Cub Scouts by her older brother Colby, now 15, who was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's National Honor Society. Colby stopped shy of making Eagle Scout. Sydney is determined to achieve that goal.

Both sisters quickly earned their Bobcat Badge, the entry-level rank for all Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

By 2019, Boy Scouts — for youth ages 11 to 17 — also will become open to girls and young women.

Pack 5239 leaders in late 2017 approached VFW Post 239, their charter organization, about taking part in a "soft launch" of the change and got the OK to begin accepting applications from girls in January.

Pack 5239 Den leader Traci Siasat, left, looks at a hawk flying on the Clear Creek Trail with Tiger Scouts Trygger Carter, 6, and Annabeth Taylor, 7. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)
Pack 5239 Den leader Traci Siasat, left, looks at a hawk flying on the Clear Creek Trail with Tiger Scouts Trygger Carter, 6, and Annabeth Taylor, 7. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

"Each charter organization gets to decide whether they want to allow girls. Ours didn't give us any pushback at all," said Ryan Shipman, who was Cubmaster until recently. "To me, this is a program that will develop young people into adults we need for tomorrow. If we can train them, males and females, the pool of leadership for tomorrow will be greater."

Pack 5239 is one of four packs in Kitsap taking part in the soft launch. The others are Pack 4496 on Bainbridge Island, sponsored by Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church; Pack 4539 in Poulsbo, sponsored by Crystal Grange; and Pack 4555 in Kingston, sponsored by the Greater Hansville Community Center.

The opportunity to accept girls will open up to packs nationwide in June.

"The intent is really to work out some of the kinks or rather to find out if there are any kinks in the system before we open it widely throughout the district," said Jeff Weiss, director of the Boys Scouts of America for the Kitsap Peninsula.

So far, no kinks have been apparent, according to Weiss. Pack leaders and parents only wish the rollout was happening faster.

Brianna Richie, 8, and Annabeth Taylor, 7, hide under a podium and blow whistles during a lost hiker drill. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)
Brianna Richie, 8, and Annabeth Taylor, 7, hide under a podium and blow whistles during a lost hiker drill. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

Weiss said resistance in his district has been minimal.

“Generally, that feedback comes from folks that have been involved in the movement for a very long time and are just resistant to change in general,” he said. “Because the charter organizations can choose to institute this or not, it kind of becomes a moot point. This is not something that’s being forced on a pack.”

Group activities — like the hike, award ceremonies and recent Pinewood Derby — are co-ed, but for now, Cub Scout dens will remain single-gender, per a directive from the national level. Weiss said that could change but there are no immediate plans.

"For now, there's a separation, and it will likely stay that way unless there's a high demand in the packs," he said.

Siasat, whose 7-year-old son Daren is in Pack 5239, was eager to become a den leader for girls.

“I wanted to be a Cub Scout when I was growing up,” she said. “So when I found out we were accepting girls, I jumped at the chance.”

Cubmaster Keith Potter said people often ask about the differences between boys and girls. “The number one answer, they learn a lot faster,” he said. “Half of them got Bobcat the first night.”

Jillian Taylor, Sydney and Annabeth's mom, said she and her husband Chris were delighted with the Boy Scouts of America's decision to accept girls but for slightly different reasons.

When Colby was in Scouting, Chris was deeply involved as a leader. "When (Colby) decided he wanted to pursue other interests, my husband's hopes were just dashed," Jillian said.

Brianna Richie and Sydney Taylor, both 8, celebrate completion of a project assignment during a recent Cub Scout meeting. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)
Brianna Richie and Sydney Taylor, both 8, celebrate completion of a project assignment during a recent Cub Scout meeting. (Photo: Larry Steagall / Kitsap Sun)

Now that this new opportunity has opened up, Chris is hopeful there will Eagle Scouts in the family after all.

"For me, I'm in it for the feminist aspect, I suppose," Jillian said. "I want strong girls. I want my girls to be able to do anything that the boys do."

Shipman, the former Cubmaster, has two Cub Scout sons, 9 and 5. Boys in the pack seem nonplussed by the addition of girls, Shipman said. "My male youth, they just didn't really seem to care. 'OK, cool.' They just wanted to move on with what they're doing."

The addition of girls, however, is a historic move for the Boy Scouts of America, Shipman said. "It's definitely in my opinion the right step for diversity and inclusion."