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  • Den getting too big

    Just had contact form 3 more boys that want to transfer to our pack. All Bears.
    Currently have 12 boys on the roster in that den
    Usually 8-10 show at any given meeting,
    +3 makes 15 boys.
    I know the "book" says a den is usually 6-8 boys. We like 8-10

    8 of our boys have been together since the beginning of Tiger
    one of the others joined at the start of Wolf, and goes to school with most of the others at our CO's school.
    2 joined at the start of this year...... I think 1 as an existing friend of the other boys.

    I was talking with the DL. He feels that where we are now is workable, but around 12 or more at any given meeting might be too much.
    Talked about splitting. Seems that it'll be hard friends want to stay with friends, or a boy might prefer the old leader vs the new....
    Also talked about having a formal assistant DL or even a "co-DL". We could join for the opening and closing, but split into two groups for any activity.
    I feel like we should see how the rest of the school year goes since we're through most of it..... But I certainly want to do anything I can to not over load a good DL. the other part of me thinks that if we're gonna split, now is the time so the 3 new boys don't get settled..... and we might be able to tap one of the new parents to lead it.
    He wants to stay the course and see how it goes.

    So the questions:
    How big is too big?
    How have you handled splits of existing dens?
    Last edited by blw2; 02-19-2014, 09:03 AM. Reason: had my numbers wrong

  • #2
    I think your best bet is to get an Assistant DL, and keep it to one den.


    • blw2
      blw2 commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, through all my rambling thoughts.... that's how I'm leaning.... I think that probably makes the most sense......
      but I'm not the DL in question.
      and if not know.... what if we gain 2 more boys, or 3... or? There has to be a point when it's just too big.

      I used to be his ADL before I was tapped to help the CM, but I honestly never felt I did a very good job at it. Partially because we never really worked out a mutual 'plan', and partially because what he really needed was a cat hearder & I just wasn't all that it.

      He made a good point.... the big problems really come when there's turns to be taken..... like the den carries the flag at pack mtg. all the boys want to carry and there's no way that all of them would ever get a turn. Or some skits when it simply would mean that they all can't participate. The rest of it is manageable with a good parent or two helping and herding....

  • #3
    The school year is almost over. You have maybe 7 meetings left. Get three parents to agree to be ADL for the rest of the 7 den meetings and split up for the activity. Next year, as Webelos, run them as two patrols. I wouldn't shuffle the existing scouts for the last few months. Buy the DL a good bottle of bourbon for after the meetings...


    • #4
      For the skits, do two skits for the mega den, and put half in each skit... That'll help them organize into the groups you'll use for Webelos.


      • #5
        Congrats on a successful program. No room for further growth as you are now. Heading into the end of school year is a great time to solve this problem. But this is something to be educating the parents and scouts on now. I support the idea of 3 ADLs. In fact, perhaps they all could be stepping up and planning some events and meetings as training ground for spring / summer / fall. That way your DL could be mentoring them and scouts could see them in action.

        We used to cap our dens at 8 or 9. I particularly like 6, big enough for relays, and small enough that every scout knows he is important to the den.


        • #6
          We have a large Wolf den with 24 boys. We are lucky to have a very organized Den Leader with a clear plan, who has the support of 3 ADL's. I'm one of them. We also have a bunch of really helpful moms or dads. We require parent participation. "Drop offs" are rare.

          We split the 24 boys into two sub-dens/"patrols" and meet at school in two separate nearby group areas on the same day/time. The programs in each 12 boy sub-den are the same. Most of the boys show up most of the time. Usually, we have at least 10 show up in each sub-den. Sometimes we get together for announcements or group games- that way the boys who are split up can reconnect with each other.

          Honestly I think 3 sub dens might be optimal for us to be able to manage the activities better for a group our size. I think roughly 8 boys per sub-den would be the best proportion. But we'd really need another one or two more ADL's.

          In August, the DL and the 3 ADL's met to plan most of the meetings leading up to earning the Wolf rank at Blue & Gold. We planned it so that parents could choose (or be assigned) a specific den meeting to be the "Adult Coordinator". Each meeting has a pair of Adult Coordinators (two for each sub-den) When it's the Adult Coordinator's turn, they carry out the DL's overall plan, with the support of the ADL's. And that's the meeting where their son is the Denner and/or flag ceremony leader.

          With as many Wolves as we have, we require active 1-on-1 parent participation. With boys that age, that's the only way it works for us.

          You may want to implement something like this next year. It requires prior planning and buy-in from the parents. I don't see why you couldn't start introducing the concept now, of breaking your large group into multiple smaller groups with parent help. Just make it official next year.


          • Austinole
            Austinole commented
            Editing a comment
            Wow, nice organization. You have a great volunteer/parent/scout thing going.

        • #7
          anotherguy .... wow, 24 is a big den for sure! Why don't you just have three separate dens? ~~ and how do you all handle the inevitable issue of cubs not happy with being split form friends, or not getting into the den with Leader "A", or whatever..... I just forsee a lot of disappointed scouts either way you split it.

          Pack18Alex..... I'm interested in the patrol idea for WEBELOS. I'm sure we can get through this year since it's mostly over, no worries.... and Patrols seem like a great intro to Scouts. It's right along the lines of what the DL was thinking with "co-leaders". I'll have to study up on that for sure to be able to make good suggestions to the DL. I'm just not that familiar with WEBELOS and Scout Patrols yet.....

          ..... but what is everyone's thought on how best to affect the split and avoiding disappointed scouts? I can surely imagine my son being very turned off and likely even wanting to quit if he was split away from his best bud(s)


          • anotherguy
            anotherguy commented
            Editing a comment
            3 dens would make sense numerically for the boys, but we'd need a few more leaders to make it work. Right now, we have 4 "shirted" leaders that handle the 24 in two dens. We do have the help of parents though which is key.

            The boys don't seem to be upset that a friend is in the "other" sub-den. We try to keep the program interesting so they don't have a chance to think about that stuff. ;-)

            Most of the boys know each other from school. We do some things together as one big den group, like games, bike rides, cookouts, etc. It's just easier to do the quieter things in smaller groups. (Like learning about first aid, etc.) In fact we often divide the sub dens (12 each) into 6., and ask parents to lead the program.

        • #8
          While other Den Leaders would help greatly. I would grab the parents and have them help as well. Do not let them sit on the sidelines surfing their smartphones.


          • anotherguy
            anotherguy commented
            Editing a comment
            This very thing is something we had to deal with early on this year. Lack of parent attentiveness and some out of hand kids was a challenge. The Den Leader(s) sent out an email identifying the problem and requiring more one-on-one participation. We also instituted a Den code of conduct that the boys created (with some steering by leaders). It was only a few points long- simple. We try to reinforce this Code of Conduct at each meeting. It made a huge difference. Still, people need to be reminded (parents and boys included).

        • #9
          I don't think there is any set number on how big or small a den should be. Factors that would govern it are the ability of the den leader to manage a large group, the amount of parent helpers, and the behavior of the boys. Even if your DL is capable of taking on the new boys, I'm not sure that is such a good idea. Depending on the boys, it could totally change the dynamics of your den, and not always for the positive. Is it worth 3 new boys when it could result in a possible meltdown of your DL and the existing den? If it were me, I would welcome the 3 boys and their parents into the pack and tell them you will offer them support to form their own den and make one of the new parents be a DL. We have had to turn boys away from our pack because a den was too full and no one wanted to split up an existing den and the new boys' parents didn't want to step up and become a DL. A strong program is not measured by how many boys you have in your pack or den, it is measured by the experiences you provide for the boys. If that level of service decreases by adding more boys, then I wouldn't do it.


          • anotherguy
            anotherguy commented
            Editing a comment
            Good points and well said. Adding boys can be tricky if not done carefully.

            But also consider that by turning away those three, you might be turning away the opportunity to have an engaged parent that can contribute to the den. I'm thinking of a former Eagle Scout, an EMT, carpenter, veterinarian, camping enthusiast, entrepreneur, etc.

            With a large group it's important to require more parent involvement. Make that expectation clear from the outset.

            I may be wrong in my assessment, but it seems that the boys with more involved parents will likely stay with the program longer and get more out of scouting. They have the potential to contribute to the health of the den too.

            It's the parents that you need to "remind" of their responsibilities who will be the ones who will likely eventually stop showing up.

        • #10
          Well, I think Webelos Patrols might avoid the "split from friends." They can all wear the same Den Number on their sleeve, and be assigned to 2-3 patrols that they can pick the names for. In the 1 Den, 3 Patrols (if you are up to 15 now, I'm guessing they'll grow in the fall to 18+).

          I would assign patrols in the fall, AFTER Day/Resident Camp. One option, put the boys that went to Camp in a separate patrol, since they'll have 2-4 pins done at camp. That way if the other patrols are doing the pins that they did, they can work on a different pin.

          Webelos Den Leader is responsible for planning/managing the Webelos Program to rank advance by Blue and Gold.
          Each Patrol has a Assistant Webelos Den Leader assigned to the patrol to supervise the activity.

          If your Dens meet separately from your Pack Meetings, I'd start pretending that you have a Webelos Troop. Call the meeting to order as one Troop. One patrol does the flag ceremony. Then break into the activity. End with a game/competition, then reconvene for a Den Leader's Minute and retire the colors.

          Carrying on this theme, I would, in the fall, meeting 1, Den and Patrol Flags. There should be a Webelos Den flag and each Patrol has a flag. At Den Meetings, post the colors of the Den and the USA, with Patrols at their flags. At pack meetings, patrols line up with their flag, one Scout carries the Den flag in the front. That way you can reinforce that they are One Den, 3 Patrols. They get instruction on activity together, work in patrols, and the patrols compete.

          This is all theoretical, I'm Committee Chair and Wolf Leader.

          I really thought we were going to be able to have two Webelos Patrols this year, but a bunch dropped out fast.


          • anotherguy
            anotherguy commented
            Editing a comment
            This is very close to what we do in practice. One Den number, separate patrols (with different names and flags). Works great.

        • #11
          We've got Packs out there smaller than this den. Steps needed to be taken to avoid this in the first place. Once you let the cat out of the bag, it's really tough to rein it in.

          If everything is "for the boys", I wonder what kind of programming these boys are getting when such a large group is attempted to be handled all at the same time?

          Now that the den has been created, who in their right mind would jump in and help out with such a large group?

          A lot of questions going on here and the answers aren't all that good for the boys.



          • Eagledad
            Eagledad commented
            Editing a comment
            I admit it is a bit of a risk, but out of my 16 Webelos who moved into troops, 12 got eagles and 14 aged out. So it's not a matter of can't, it's a matter of how. And that is what these forums are for. Barry

          • anotherguy
            anotherguy commented
            Editing a comment
            Assigning parents tasks in small chunks of responsibility works well. A first come- first serve "volunteer" sign up sheet at the beginning of the year is used for this purpose. Those that don't "volunteer" are assigned a task that may (or may not) suit their interest. For example, a dad that works in a medical office talks about first aid and staying healthy. A mom who volunteers at the local historical society can set up a den visit to an important community building. A dad who has carpentry experience can lead the kit building. All of this in support of the DL and the ADL, who in turn support the parent with a plan and a structure carry out the program that week.

          • jblake47
            jblake47 commented
            Editing a comment
            The original post does not indicate the # adults involved, but to avoid burnout it would be a good idea to have a few on hand.

            While it is not impossible to run a good program as Barry indicates, for the "average" DL the large group might be too much and unfortunately the #1 thing that often times takes a hit is quality of program. Yes, a good DL can do a great job and provide the exception, but for a newbie DL with basic training it might be an overwhelming task right from the get-go.

            My sincere appreciation goes out to the DL who can handle it, but for those that can't it can be a disaster for the boys.

            More adults, or break the group up, I would surely hate to lose a good DL to burnout without some help from the concerned CM.


        • #12
          >>This is all theoretical, I'm Committee Chair and Wolf Leader<<
          It may be theoretical, but that is almost exactly how I handled my Den of 16 Webelos. Because of the size and planning required, I also change from three 1 hr den meetings a month to two 1 hr and 30 minute meetings a month to give me more time to plan and allow more room for program. I need more time because I planned two activities at the same time and had the switch after 20 mintues. On top that, I required two parents become assistant den leader, and two other parents to run the monthly theme activities that they planned. It was a close group so it worked out very well. I would not recommend it to anyone unless that is the absolute last option. As to the original question of Den size, I tried to keep dens to about eight scouts. Barry


          • #13
            Den Chief! Get a younger Boy Scout who needs a POR to help out as your Den Chief.


            • #14
              Originally posted by dedkad View Post
              I don't think there is any set number on how big or small a den should be. Factors that would govern it are the ability of the den leader to manage a large group, the amount of parent helpers, and the behavior of the boys. Even if your DL is capable of taking on the new boys, I'm not sure that is such a good idea. Depending on the boys, it could totally change the dynamics of your den, and not always for the positive. Is it worth 3 new boys when it could result in a possible meltdown of your DL and the existing den?
              Size of the space where you meet also is one of the limits on the possible size of a den.

              When dens are as large as classrooms (17-20 boys) one of the things that the young scouts miss out on in the small group experience where they can work on their social skills and long term friendships. For some boys this is the main thing they need out of scouts (others need other things like getting dirty, going camping...).

              Interesting what can be done in a pinch, but I have learned from trial and error that the old fashioned way the BSA has done things typically has some wisdom.