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Posts posted by bbender

  1. For us, the summertime activity has been Webelos Camp (for those who were Bears or Webelos I Scouts) or Wolf/Bear Camp (for those who were Tigers or Wolves), and our Council has a great 3 night program for each (plus one 5 night session for Webelos).


    Best event ever for the kids.


    And to overlap a bit with the long thread running about transition from Webelos to Scouts, whether the Boy Scout program offers enough, whether kids/families even "like" camping (because if they don't, maybe they don't wanna be Boy Scouts) . . . these programs are awesome.


    Each year, there will be kids who never really camped much before, and they have the best time (favorite comment relayed to a mom was that she needed to buy new bedroom furniture -- a camp cot -- because her son said it was the most comfortable sleep he ever had!). They "get it".


    Plus, for those worried about burnout, the Bert Adams program has a special "cut the bolo strings" event for the Webelos II Scouts: they go away for a night (or two, depending on the program), and camp just with staff members on the other side of the lake. No mommy or daddy, cubmasters need to stay away!


    I had 4 do it the first year they tried a two night program, and we heard that things were sketchy (they allowed visitors that year, and it made the visited homesick, and some of the "non-visited" feel unloved), but we stayed away and let the program run. On return, the 4 -- three of whom were super shy and rarely ever talked much to me, and one of whom (my son) was not shy and rarely ever failed to complain about camping if he felt it served a strategic purpose -- these four Just Would Not Stop Talking to me about the experience, what they did, what other kids in their group did.


    All four had a great summer camp with the Troop last year, and helped the rest of their new scout patrol with a record: not one single homesick counseling session.


    If your council doesn't do cub camping, find one that does!

  2. Our Scout Shop has lots of "unofficial" patches that have phrases like "Scout Spirit" or "Good Turn" or that sort of thing. As Cubmaster (and now as trainer), I would keep some of those in my "Cheer Box", so that when some Scout did something above and beyond at a campout or meeting, they might get that extra something to highlight it.


    Many kids don't care . . . and, yeah, let's not do it for the patch or bauble . . . but it's really the celebration of doing good that's important.


    Congrats for having a good Scout there!

  3. "I've been asking for a den chief for my Webelos for 3 months" ===> sad.


    Sad especially because if you have a small troop you're connected with, they probably want new members (and here they are missing a chance to recruit).


    And if the Troop is large, they probably have more boys anxious to advance to Eagle, and need more "Positions of Responsibility" for advancement than can be found in Troop Elections (and selections), so Den Chief is made for them.

  4. I try to pitch it (the Boy Scout Program) as very different (so as to avoid the "leader burnout" concern of "oh dear G*d I don't want to continue as a Den Leader for this kid until he Eagles out") and, because the kids are different at those ages, it is better for them than continuing a cub scout style adult run program.


    I probably fall victim to saying it's better, but I say it as this is where the real magic of challenge and leadership development occur.

    -- And I can probably get away with it, since I'm still the Pack Trainer and own (and operate) my own "Cheer Box"! ;^)


    So, both programs are good . . . for their ages.


    Of course, Webelos is a transition time, and especially in Web II it's good to have a foot in each program. (Psst: nobody said you could only do ONE troop visit and ONE troop outing during your run-up to AoL . . . we actually had a very late Web II signup last year who wanted to get the 6 months for his AoL and also go to summer camp, so he did repeated visits with the Troop to stay with the rest of his former Den who had crossed over in February).


    And to help leaders with the burnout fear and to show them how Troops are different, I always like to tell them my experience at one of my first Troop Meetings with my now crossed-over son. I came up to the Scoutmaster to say hello; he was about to have a Scoutmaster's conference with a former Webelos Scout from my Pack.


    SM (to the Scout): "What does the Scoutmaster say?"


    Scout: "You always say 'ask your patrol leader!' "


    SM (to the Scout): "What does the Scoutmaster do?"


    Scout: You just sit there like this [he sat down in the next chair, folded his hand over his stomach, and started twiddling his thumbs . . . this is known as the "Scoutmaster's Position" in our Troop].


    SM (to the Scout): "So, now, what does the CUBMASTER do?"


    Scout: "Oh . . . he does EVERYTHING!"


    SM (to me): sly glance, wicked grin.


    We just emphasize to the Cub Leaders: hang in there, soon you can assume the Scoutmaster's Position!


  5. Official role or not, awesome idea to coach the DL who could use the most help.


    And to coach them in the way they will be most receptive to.


    And depending on Pack people and skills, sometimes CM is also the Pack Trainer (in effect, if not in charter title).


    When I was a CM, I likewise went from Den Meeting to Den Meeting, as our Dens all meet after school and the school did not like me throwing pencils into the ceiling. As part of that, I would also be the emergency backup den leader (for the inevitable "I got a flat tire" or "I'm stuck at work" call, which, for one DL who was a surgeon was fairly common, as I couldn't fault her for not leaving the OR early to get to a Den Meeting).

    -- So, some DLs don't mind ya taking over. Others would resent it and wouldn't want to be "shown up".

    -- Others are cool with it: you just have to figure out who they are.

    -- Meeting on the outside in a casual way is a great idea to figure out who they are.

    -- Frankly, our leader planning meetings were often "getting to know you" social events in places like Italian restaurants or poolside with food and drink.


    And whatever the DL's skills, praise in public, criticize in private (and even in private find a way to not come across as critical).


    This year, as just Pack Trainer, I was also sort of de facto Tiger Den Leader for meeting one, because we had a bunch of parents sitting on their hands when the "who wants to be Den Leader" question was put out there, so . . . I said I'd run the first meeting, but would need their help.


    For the meeting, I brought each one a copy of the Meeting One plan, copies of the sample code of conduct, and pulled supplies out of our Pack's "Cub Tubs" kept at the school so that we could start scrapbooks, and pulled some balloons and string for an end of meeting game of balloon battle stomp royale.


    Then, during the gathering time, I went from parent to parent, gave them a one on one explanation of the Meeting Plan, and asked them to take on certain parts

    -- would you do this opening? here's how: this one is pretty simple, and it's written right here

    -- here's a sample code of conduct, now I'm gonna talk about things cub scouts do, and when they start interrupting me and each other, would you jump in and solicit ideas about "how we're gonna act" in our den?

    -- here's some starter pages for scrapbooks, and take a look at the idea here in the plan: could you lead them working on this project when it is time?

    -- we're gonna do a game, and I'll call out the rules, but when I do I'm going to introduce you as the referee, is that OK?

    and so on . . .


    Sort of the "Tom Sawyer" approach to getting the fence painted, as I sort of just was the one to introduce the next parent leading the next part, and sometimes they just jumped in and did it, and other times I just sort of whispered what to do next.


    Or, an extreme application of "just give someone one small job" that they can succeed at, and see what it turns into.


    End of the day, we had a den leader and two assistants, and two weeks later they're in uniform on a field trip.


  6. Yeah, we also hand out the belt loops and activity pins in Den Meetings. They get to go home and say "I earned this today". (Actually, since it is right after school, they can also show off to the kids in after school care).


    As I've posted elsewhere, one can still "recognize" them at the Pack Meetings. Just because Michael Phelps got his Gold Medal at the Olympic pool just after drying off doesn't mean you can't recognize him at the Pack Meeting when he comes home to Baltimore. (Plus, there is less downtime as one handles the bling).


    On the topic of who cares about the presentation and comments (kids or parents), the Pack Meeting presentation (before we started doing the belt loops and such at Den Meetings) that had the best kid reaction for a fun way to award was the Awards Pinata: all of those baggies of bling with names on them were put in a Pinata, and the kids got to line up and whack away.


    In any event, as far as I can see, the big connections kids make at this level appears to be at the Den Meetings, with their Den (and maybe other dens at their same level).


  7. Here's your strength: 7 kids.


    7 kids who want to have fun and program.


    Build on that strength: focus on having good program for those 7 kids.


    To make it easy, take advantage of easy options (like District and Council activities at camps), and get the kids doing fun stuff.


    If that happens, the rest can come into place.


    If they have fun, it will be easier to raise funds for more ambitious program, recruit leaders, etc. You'll also attract more of their friends.


    Now, a problem you'll have in planning your meetings (which may be part of the problem) is that most of the Cub Scouting resources do not address what you've got here. You've got a Den sized Pack, so you've got a Pack with one den: a mixed Den. And you really don't have any difference between a Pack Meeting and a Den Meeting (it's just that some meetings might be more fun and family and recognition).


    Now, for those Den Meetings, you'll have a conundrum: what to do, what to work on. Now, you're starting mid-year, so focus on fun, but if you want to use some of the Den Meeting plans, there are ways to work the program with mixed Dens (basically you'd follow meeting plans, but let the Tigers work at their own pace, and the Webelos Scout to take a bit more leadership role plus work at his advanced pace). A work in progress that describes how to do that, by taking one plan as the "base" and adding in what's missing from the other meeting plans, is found in the document called "New Cub Guide Meeting Plan Paths for Mixed Dens" located at http://www.southfultonscouting.com/node/1596. A direct link might be here: http://www.southfultonscouting.com/system/files/MixedDenMeetingPlanoptionsfromtheGuide.DOC. There is a Tiger/Wolf/Bear plan, so you can just ignore the "Wolf" add-ins (for now). It doesn't address mixing in Webelos yet, but that's on my "to do" list.


    Now, there is another mixed den program out there, but it is sort of self-defeating in one respect: when you succeed, add members and get up to "full den" size at each level, there is no easy transformation from that program to the program used by the rest of the Scouting program (and the one talked about at Roundtables, in Baloo's Bugle, etc.).


    Bottom line: don't worry about how the Pack is different from the full sized packs with big org charts. Make the program work for the 7 kids.


    My $0.02. Hope that helps.


    Bert Bender

    Pack and District Trainer

    South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council

  8. Let me chime in with some observations from this neck of the woods on these keys to keeping Webelos, and transitioning them to Troops, and echo several of the points raised:


    -- "hands on" stuff in Den Meetings: get out of the classroom and classroom mentality (or if you're in a classroom, get in the science lab and do fun stuff, safely of course), get out and about, get dirty (like under the car hood), do fun nutty stuff (not silly craftsman stuff, but cool stuff like marshmallow shooters). Of course, that goes for earlier years too.


    -- camping, hiking, outdoors: we have a "Webelos Winter Camp" with the Troop from our school that is the most popular campout from either unit and really solidifies relations (especially since so many Webelos parents attend and get to know the Troop leaders and see both the madness and the methods), plus we've had (in some years) "Webelos First Nights" on Pack Campout weekend (where we encourage just the Webelos to set up camp on Friday, and allow the rest to come on Saturday, setting up the Webelos to be the leaders). We don't turn away younger experienced campers from Friday night, but we don't want inexperienced campers to arrive Friday and fail (better to come Saturday when there is guaranteed help getting set up and succeeding).


    -- yeah, you can't make Webelos be "Wolf, Laps 3 and 4": each year needs to be kicked up a notch. We've found that by the Webelos years more parents grow up and "get it" that they need to really help out in their areas of expertise, so we get more willing volunteers to come help with cool stuff that they do in job or hobby. Of course, we preach that to younger years too, but somehow in those years (more often) the parents don't step up and the den leaders don't make the parents step up (as getting experts to come in and do stuff they know and love is a better way to grab and retain younger kids too, plus keep leaders from burnout).


    -- rotate leadership: this is actually my "third R" added to the familiar mantra of "recruit and retain". BSA focus is to recruit, then retain, which puts the death grip on the leader, forcing them to (as the song goes): "won't you try a little bit harder, couldn't you try just a little bit more". Sadly, that retention grip is a death grip, because at some point it just releases, and when that leader is lost, the program falls apart. So recruit, rotate and retain, because that way Leader A can be a resource to help support the next leader, and perhaps come "out of the bullpen" once in while to help out, or perhaps return for a last go after a year or two breather. Shared leadership shouldn't end in Tiger.


    -- listen to the kids and what they want to do. Yeah, you do want to keep them on track, so you won't be as loose as when you let new Boy Scouts determine their own pace and path to First Class and beyond, but if you get their ideas about what they want to do, and let them see that you're listening and letting them help guide the Den, they'll have more fun and feel they "own" the program. This is a downer for some parents/leaders who want their little ones to get every Webelos Activity Badge, but then I've never heard of an employer or college admissions office saying "hey, let's take this guy: he was a Webelos Super Achiever!!". So, yeah, sometimes we just blew off the meeting activity and played ultimate (even if they already had the belt loop and pin and Sportsman activity badge).


    -- getting help from the Troop has been a big plus: the Boy Scouts relate better to 4th and 5th graders than younger ones, and if you cultivate the relationship, you'll get Den Chiefs, or just visiting experts on stuff like camping and fire building. And why Boy Scout Troops don't activity cultivate Webelos dens is beyond me: nearly every Troop wants to keep a flow of new members, so that today's Tenderfeet can be SPLs in the future and not see the Troop wither away.


    -- also, summer camps for Webelos: best event ever for our Pack (kudos to the Bert Adams staff and program here in Atlanta), and gets them fired up for more. I've heard some say "if they do it as Webelos, they won't be as interested in being Boy Scouts because they'll have 'been there/done that'", but I haven't seen that yet, and there is enough change (different camp, different activities, different level of freedom) that there's always more to do (like high adventure).


    But I have seen in our District that a lot of Cub Packs see their Webelos evaporate, while Troops bemoan their fate as they limp by with only 10 or so scouts. Something's gotta give here: as part of that, we're trying to kick up the Boy Scout involvement at our District Pinewood Derby event (which has become very successful and well attended), so that the Boy Scouts take a leadership role, and some of them put on "scout skill" type sideshows to help recruit and "hook" cubs (and parents), plus some of us want to formalize Pack and Troop camping relationships, so that we'll have a parallel cub event to an event where all of the Boy Scout Troops camp together, where the packs camp adjacent to the Troops and participate in a Council cub event, and return to see what the Troops have been doing and participate as observers with their Troops in evening activities like campfire, giving more Troops more contact with Cubs, and vice versa. And in the process, some of the stronger Troops can work with and mentor some of the fledgling Troops, leading to greater overall success in each.


    My $0.02.


    Bert Bender

    Pack and District Trainer

    South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council

    The Wheel is Turning

  9. For myself, I like the idea of doing training at Roundtable (since RT events should impart knowledge and skills), but whether one should make that the program (or part of the program) would depend heavily on whether your existing RT program is working.


    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


    The downside to offering the sessions would be that some will decide not to attend on account of "having the training already", though many (hopefully, most, given the spirit of Roundtable) would likely attend as trainers, or at least "helpers" who can chime in with the stories and tricks that are often the key take-aways that many attendees remember from any training class.


    Of course, if your RTs are just FRs (Flyer Recitals: the reading of the data on the flyers that are laid out on the table, with each flyer reading preceded by "oh, this is important", and each reading followed by "put that on your calendar"), then doing the training (especially with input from the experienced hands) is a "win / win" in my opinion.


    My $0.02.

  10. Eagle92:


    As a budgeting tool, let me direct you to the Leader Training Page at http://www.southfultonscouting.com/node/1066, and if you scroll down, you will find a Generic Pack Annual Budget Template Spreadsheet that you can open and copy and adjust and adapt to your Local Financial Conditions.


    For example, you could put elements in or out of the "Pack Dues (or Pack Fundraiser Funded)" portion of the budget, and put them into "Paid by Families".


    FWIW, and YMMV, my Pack has paid for Handbooks and Advancement Supplies and Pinewood Derby and Blue and Gold, in order to ensure that everyone has a book on day one, gets advancement immediate recognition, and doesn't have a "we didn't/can't pay" excuse to not attend a Derby or Banquet.

    -- Of course, you could change that, budget wise.

    -- The full FAQ description of what our Pack Dues pay for is "The $120 Pack Dues covers BSA registration and Boys Life Subscription, Leader Registration costs, Cub Handbook for the Scout, generic uniform patches (the Atlanta Area Council Shoulder Patch, a 631 Patch that goes right below, and the International Scouting Emblem), Leader Patches, Recognition and Rank Badges (including, within limits, Belt Loops and Pins), Pack T Shirts for Scouts and Leaders (extra for family available for $7), Pinewood Derby kit and awards, Blue & Gold Banquet. The Pack Dues also pays for website and Pack Software and Website and Photo Site fees, supplies for meetings (reasonable, thrifty supplies, not a new kit every week), and planning materials for leaders."


    For events, we do try to have "hard" budget figures, so that expenses don't get out of whack with attendance. This is aided by use of a SOAR Website that allows signup to link to PayPal, so that individuals can sign up and pay online, which dramatically decreases the time spent tracking checks and payments, and avoids the problem of "fair weather" fans who decide not to show/pay if it is inconvenient that day.


    Hope this helps.


    Bert Bender

    Pack and District Trainer

    South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council

  11. Also expensive, but fun, and in your neck of the woods, is Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. See http://www.spacecamp.com/ and http://www.spacecamp.com/details.php?cat=Groups&program=New+Horizons.


    Agreed on the lock in concept . . . kids having fun is the adventure. Depending on your set-up and weather, you might also be able to have tents pitched outside, since if it is too cold you can come into the gym or whatever space you might use for the "lock in".


    Also, on the concept of cabins (more rare at Scout Camps, though some might have them), lots of State Parks have cabins, and Pack Families could up and rent them for a Pack Camping weekend. For large Packs, there are "Group Camps" that have cabins (like Laura S. Walker State Park near Waycross).


    Other Caves include Raccoon Mountain just outside Chatannooga on I-24 (they do Advancement work as part of the overnighter . . . see http://www.wildcave.com/ and http://www.raccoonmountain.com/), and Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee (see http://www.cumberlandcaverns.com/tours_overnight.htm).


    Could be dicey if icy, but the "Hike Inn" at Amicalola Falls State Park in North Georgia would be great, especially if you can book the whole inn. See http://hike-inn.com/default.asp.


    The Rock Ranch, south of Griffin Georgia, near Barnesville, is a working cattle ranch owned by Truett Cathy, now focused on Family Agritainment. Don't know how "winterized" it is, but I hear it is fun. See http://www.therockranch.com/index_2.htm.

  12. With the caveats that All Scouting is Local, and Big Packs and Small Packs are gonna be different, and Use your Resources no matter the size of your pack (including dealing out parts of jobs to those who can take them on, and finding others to pick up the leftover parts . . . but know that some Cubmasters and/or Committee Chairs might have skills in these areas and like to do them by their own selves because they are good at this), we describe the Membership Chair "idea" in the following ways, some of which are paperwork (because it must be done by someone) and some of which are program (to inspire people to join), so the jobs may well be split among several folks:


    "Membership Chair the Membership Chair (in cooperation with Rank Level Membership Coordinators to make a "membership team") solicits and signs up new members, ensures that all are signed up with the BSA and have what they need to get started in Scouting. Details are:


    1) Back to School Signups, ideally by deploying Rank Level help:

    During back to school sign up periods, obtain (or pull from School Directory) contact information for possible Scouts (email and/or call);

    Develop advance information programs by email, School Website/newsletters, other methods to let families know what we do;

    Organize sign ups of new Members at and before Registration Day at the Schools, and get volunteers for those days at School during the "extracurricular bazaar" time in the gym;

    If school will provide time, organize a "buzz up" about what we do (in a school assembly, or classroom by classroom);

    Enter likely signups into Packmaster and import into Website pending final organization (this will likely involve calls to pin down the undecided and the changed minds);

    Deliver membership items to paid members (Council, Pack Number and Fleur de Lis patches; Handbooks; T Shirts; Leader Patches) and monitor supplies of these items.

    You might ask Rank Level Advancement Coordinators to assist, since use of Packmaster software and Scout Shop buys are involved in both and advancement is not busy at the start of the School Year.


    2) Coordinate the paperwork signup, ideally by deploying Rank Level help:

    collection of dues from everyone (PayPal is an option on the website, but many will do checks)

    coordinate the collection of Scout and Adult Applications from new members and new leaders (last years members of our Pack do NOT need new apps);

    review and enter Application Data into Packmaster software to complete our website Roster, and allow annual Recharter to go smoothly;

    submit new Member Information to Atlanta Area Council and pay Registration Fees from Pack Account; learn and apply the Recharter paperwork process;


    3) Do Annual Recharter Paperwork through our Packmaster software, and file on time, with correct signatures.

    Will involve coordination with Treasurer (for check) and Pack Chair (for signatures) and School (for signatures).


    4) Ancillary Jobs: in addition, the Membership Chair could:

    be, or recruit, a Kindergarten Liaison, to see that Kindergarten Kids and Parents are informed about Events (Pinewood Derby, end of year Pack Meeting?); cultivate Kindergarten Parents and assess interest and questions and leadership options.


    Certain of our "local" issues obviously involve how our School runs signups for after school events, and the fact that we use Packmaster and a Soar Website.


    For what it's worth, while this is how we write it up, we always end up with folks doing "part" of the job, but not "all" of the job . . . just based on the ebb and flow of the adult leadership skillsets. Some of our membership people have been all over the paperwork and data, but allowed the Cubmaster to be the ambassador to the kids; other times, the Membership person is more active, but lets others run the paperwork part.


    Just a couple of cents.


    Bert Bender

    Pack and District Trainer

    South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council

  13. Agreed, it is all situational.


    Back from our Mountaintop in North Georgia, where it was cold Friday night (into the upper 20's), and then . . . the rain came Saturday. A light rain, but it just didn't stop. Boy Scouts planned a hike with a stop for lunch to use new backpacking stoves. Cold, wet, grim . . . and windy on the top of the mountain.


    I ran a "sag wagon" service for some of the Webelos Parents (and their kids) who wanted to bail out of the hike halfway. The rest completed the circuit, and came back cold and wet. Many learned (in the normal way, from failure!) about clothing and layers and raingear and hats and such. And will be prepared next time.


    And it was great.


    What made our situation great was that we had a nice campsite with a "happy place" . . . a cabin with a wood burning stove and a loft space with plenty of room, with the Troop Buzzard Patrol making hot stuff in Dutch Ovens, so as the trekkers returned they all plopped down in the cabin to relax, dry out, and eat. We make sure that there is plenty of extra fuel for the young engines, and that Cub Parents can eat well (just because we're in the wilderness does not mean we must be uncivilized).


    With that cabin resource, we had a warm, safe place to retreat to, which allowed everyone to go out and challenge themselves in the elements. And many of the cold youth just hung around the campfire outside as the rain continued, in the way people do as they expand their boundaries and do what they have not done before.


    While many Scouts were wet and cold at times, no Scouts were unhappy.


    Yes, some parents left Saturday who had originally planned to stay to Sunday . . . which was fine. Better to have the experience and leave a bit early than to stay too long past one's tolerance. Leave them wanting more, and wanting to come back.


    Of course, had they stayed, by Saturday night the weather report played out as predicted (we track on a PC during the campout): it was clear with stars above and below (the town below the mountain), and Sunday was a bright but cold morning (although it got colder for me when the temperature rose . . . which I will assume is that "humidity" factor noted above by Scoutfish).


    FYI, our weather tracking before and during the event would have us abandon the camp if we were going to face significant ice or snowfall that would be dangerous, and we consulted with the park personnel to confirm their views with their resources and experience.


    Actual quotes from emails from Webelos Parents after the wrap-up email on our return yesterday:


    -- "Best part for us was [Jerry] hanging in through the wind, rain, and cold and having a great time hiking, cooking his sandwich at the pavilion, and camping with the Troop."


    -- "[Micky] and [bill] had a great time and were disappointed to have to pack up Saturday night (they rode with the [Weir]s) They would have weathered another night. [bill] commented several times about how great the meals were . . . "


    -- "[Phil] reiterated that it was the best camping ever. He was peeved that he had to leave early as you probably heard. He was so excited to get the polar bear patch."


    Lots of parents worry about whether to allow their sons to attend when the weather looks bad, and I always tell them: pack right, and go, because nobody tells stories about the times you camped in pleasant weather. You only tell the stories about being out in the Cold, Rain and Snow. And how you survived!


    All in all, while it was tough tough weather, it was a great great weekend . . . and we'll do it again next year.


    Bert Bender

    Troop Committee Chair / Pack Trainer / Dutch Oven Diner Chef

    South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council


  14. Another Georgian here, and another with Webelos Winter Camp held in conjunction with our Boy Scout Troop (our third annual is coming up this weekend). We have held this at a State Park that has a "Pioneer Camp" that is all alone, and one with a large Cabin with a loft that has a wood burning stove. Most Webelos (and Boy Scouts) will tent it and/or do the adirondaks (with tarps over the front), but some do retreat to the warmth of the Cabin, so . . . all has worked out well, and it has actually fired up many of the Webelos to want to go do more with Boy Scouts.

  15. Especially for anyone already using Packmaster as an advancement and recharter tool, Soar is awesome. But, yeah, ya gotta be sure you don't have admin types trying to "edit" your members/roster, since the next Packmaster download wipes those changes out. But that's just a matter of making sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.


    And we really really love the auto-sorting into Dens when the Cub Pack get reorganized every August, as people come and go. There's always someone "new" coming in a week or three after school comes back, and then those who do the "oh, never mind, we have Beekeeping classes on those nights" and drop off. If you keep up to date with Packmaster and do your SOAR exports, the "email list addresses" never have extra (or missing) emails with people getting hacked off about "why didn't you take me off the list" (or add me to the list) as the different "Den Levels" shoot emails around in "reply to all" to get organized, recruit leadership, etc.


    Agree also that Packmaster is clunky and not "user friendly" at the Den Level, especially for "parts" of requirements. So our Advancement types use both: spreadsheets to more easily track the granular sub-detail meeting to meeting, and then Packmaster updates as elements are completed.




  16. I have heard that Scoutlander is liked, and is free.


    See http://www.scoutlander.com/PublicSite/home.aspx


    (We use SOAR, with Packmaster, but it's not free, just worth it for our pack of 70 or so).


    I think there are some general guidelines, and you might find them through this unofficial site: http://www.escouting.net/.


    Generally, keep private stuff private (names, addresses of Scouts and Families), behind "password protected" pages. There is more, and it likely will evolve.

  17. From my perspective (that leaders can contribute "some of a job" according to his/her abilities and available time, even if other parts of the oh-fficial job description aren't covered), if the Pack has nobody in the Pack Trainer role now, your skills definitely fit a good part of what the Pack Trainer can do.


    I say what the Pack Trainer "can" do, because depending on Pack Trainer abilities and available commitments, the Pack Trainer can do several roles -- and the job can be split among several people to fit these roles -- hopefully your CM and CC feel the same way, and welcome anyone who will help in any parts of these jobs:


    1) Training Coordination and Communication: a lot of over-worked, under-trained Den Leaders get inundated with information about Scouting Stuff, and suffer from flyer fatigue, newsletter numbness, and email ennui (a feeling of utter weariness and discontent ... had to look it up to keep the alliteration alive). Sometimes they just need someone to:


    (a) organize and communicate the most immediate and essential training options (what to do next that will help them the most), and

    (b) talk to them (live, or by phone) to be sure they know what is out there and how to get the training help that they need.

    -- Lots and lots of well meaning folks just can't, or don't, focus on when and how to get training help, and/or get frustrated if "finding out more" takes more than a mouse click or two.

    -- Not to mention the folks who give up on on-line training because they don't have the right browser, etc., and just figure "it's not meant to happen".


    2) Training Records and Recognition: also great, especially as we have more of a tie to training and rechartering. And if the CM or CC has someone who is always ready to stand up at a Pack Meeting and recognize those who do any training (including roundtable) is one less thing that the CM or CC has to remember to do, and thus is a great relief.

    -- Multiple voices make messaging meaningful.


    3) Actual Training: also great, and because it is called "Pack Trainer" and not "Pack Training Coordinator", that's one reason folks often shy away; that said, a common (but not universal, certainly not required) type of leader who becomes a Pack Trainer is a former Den Leader who can help show succeeding Den Leaders the ropes.

    -- Of course, if you've taking the training and been in / helped with any meetings, you can help train already.

    -- And for many Pack Trainers who think "oooh nooo, I can NOT teach the training syllabus, no sir!", the cool thing is now ya can sit with a leader or three at a computer, and together watch the on line training. By doing it with two or more people, ya can pause it and discuss where questions arise.

    -- And if you don't know the answer, you'll point out that www.scouter.com exists as a 24/7 help center to take questions and give answers, sometimes good answers!


    On the actual training element, I love the concept in the BSA piece linked above that says "Conducting other training as designated by the district and/or council".

    -- It's like you're going to get conscripted to go do trainings wherever the Council deploys you!!

    -- You there, BSA number 123456789: the Council designates you to lead BALOO this Saturday. 8:00AM. BE THERE! ;^)


    The "Unit Leadership Enhancements" (see http://meritbadge.org/wiki/index.php/Unit_Leadership_Enhancements, as the scouting.org link for that from google is a 404 not found) can be useful if integrated into whatcha need now and coordinated with CC/CM messaging, because if the CC/CM are on top of that stuff, they are gonna be addressing them as they do their jobs. If they rely on you to, say, teach "Pack Budget Plan", and then rope ya into doing the Budget, that will be bad job creep.


    So, if you can do some of the role, spell out what your role is, and avoid "job creep".


    My $0.02. YMMV.



  18. I agree with DwS . . . sounds like you're on the right track if you get to know them and draw them in.


    My sense has always been that first year parents (at whatever level) are always sitting back, sitting on their hands, assuming that "someone else" is supposed to take the lead. With Tigers, it's worse, since unless you have a parent who has an older son in the Pack, they're all new and all sit back.


    It's almost like some of them are in "kidshock": OMG, I'm a parent! I have responsibilities!


    That's actually one of the ways to draw them in: get to know them as fellow parents, get to know what they do and what their hobbies are. (On a Den Level, I suggest just talking with folks, and ignoring the "talent survey", as in a small group it should be a discussion/dialog, not some administrative trap thing to be filled out and filed).


    You'll probably find that many of them are thinking "ya know, I gotta get around to teaching my son x, y and z" (whether reading a neighborhood or other map, or safety stuff), and as you sense you can set the hook, you can show them that this is a good way to get around to doing those things.


    And if you give them wee bits of meetings to help out with, and praise 'em for getting it done, you'll hook them (or the kids will hook them when they ask 'em to come back and do more). I actually did a whole "Tom Sawyer"-esque first Tiger meeting with a handful of parents who ended up taking over all of the meeting, even though when they arrived none of them was at all interested in being a leader. During the gathering time, I handed out Meeting Plan One, the Code of Conduct example, and a Scrapbook handout, and asked parents:


    To Parent 1: "hey, could you lead this opening? Here it is, and here's how you do it . . . "


    To Parent 2: "I'm gonna talk about fun things they can do as Cub Scouts, and I know they will all start talking at the same time. When they do that, can you step in and say 'hey guys, we ought to set up some rules about how we're gonna behave when we meet', and then prompt them for these sorts of Code of Conduct points . . . ".


    To Parent 3 (hanging out with Parent 2): ". . . .and could you write those on the board when she starts getting ideas, and chime in with your thoughts . . . ."


    To Parent 4: "Take a look at this scrapbook idea, and these 'templates' they can start working on today. Can you take a look at that, introduce it when it's time, and hand out these crayons and pencils from the Cub Tub?"


    And so on. Now, I did size up folks, and some got smaller or just assisting parts, as all volunteerism is local (and some will do more than others).


    In the after meeting gaggle, one of they agreed to be the Den Leader, and they all did an awesome field trip two weeks later, and are off and running (literally, having done a day at Camp a couple weeks ago) . . .


    My $0.02.


    Bert Bender

    Pack and District Trainer

    South Fulton District, Atlanta Area Council

  19. Camp O Ree at night is what we're doing in a month, based on Scout excitement over the idea (one of our Scouts had done it in another Council). We're going with a Saturday night Relief of (Siege of) Mafeking theme (see http://usscouts.org/usscouts/reliefofmafeking.asp). We're going to be offering work Friday and Saturday towards some of the historic merit badges (tracking and signaling will come in handy during the siege). As folks arrive Friday night, we may offer as part of that late night activity an assortment of other wide games, and maybe a spoof merit badge in Zombie Survival.


    For more Camp o Ree ideas, see also http://troop33dekalb.net/links.html#camporee, and http://www.troop33.net/campdir/links.html and http://www.netwoods.com/campguid/campguid.html and http://www.netwoods.com/document/camporee.html.


  20. What does the ACM do? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind . . .

    -- Because all Scouting is Local, and most Packs are pretty transitory (as Leaders "cross over" with their kids).


    So the role is defined based on what you and other leaders communicate (or what you let it become if you don't set out your deal or your boundaries). And based on the strength and qualities of other leaders.


    Often the tendency is to think the new guy will do what the old guy did . . . maybe that works, but not always. Your skills may not be his; the holes in Pack job needs may be different.


    In my trainings, I note the following:


    "Basic role: back up the Cubmaster / take on parts of the job that the CM would delegate.

    -- maybe youre a better story teller or song leader?

    -- maybe better at coordinating and communicating?

    -- there is no one required Assistant Cubmaster role"


    I also not that there are "Other possible assignments:

    -- An outdoors Assistant Cubmaster can complement a CM who is more indoors

    -- Great to take on Pack Helper roles like Membership, Outdoor Activities, Pack Trainer, Program Planning, Communications, Den Chief coordination or running an event."


    The last point would depend in large part on how large your Pack is (larger Packs should get more involved and split up the roles more).


    YMMV. Just my $0.02.


  21. While the big Kahuna is the CSE, there is also the very amorphous and perhaps vast group of BSA illuminati in various and sundry roles, those who decide things and sit on undisclosed committees, also known as


    TPTB -- The Powers That Be



  22. You could lose the new 5th Graders if you cross over early, because then you're leaving them behind, separated from their friends who join a Troop.


    This assumes that you don't apply a liberal right to allow "repeat visiting" by those non-AoL guys from the crossover point to the earlier of turning 11 or the end of 5th Grade.


    Thus, getting AoL allows earlier joining up with the rest of the guys, and avoids, for example, any G2SS literalist saying that, for example, they can't participate in Camp O Rees because they are still Cub Scouts.

  23. Looking at the original two options (No. 1 being "hang out" with the Den, but no Webelos or AoL option, and No. 2 being drop back to the Web I's and get Webelos Badge, maybe later AoL) let me echo and detail how to handle the third option IF they are actually interested in earning Webelos and AoL and "sticking with" the current Web II guys so that they can cross over before the end of 5th Grade:


    -- Put them in your Web II Den and do what you'd planned with your Web II guys. No "backtracking" on your Web II Den plan. No added duties on the Web II Den Leader. I assume that they will pick up a number of Activity Badges, and then the "catch up" will be Fitness and Citizen and maybe Outdoorsman and Readyman if you did those last year.


    -- Then for what they're missing, either hook them up provisionally with selected Web I Den Meetings when they do Fitness and Citizen (and anything else they needs), or do a little of what in our Pack we call "Webelos Tutorial" for those badges. Web Tutorial might also be supported by the Troop (especially if your guys already have Outdoorsman), but may also be supported by one or more parents of one of the new Web II guys who can be tasked as an Assistant (or Activity Badge Counselor -- and fitness and citizen are very easy for the random volunteer to cover) for the missing activity badge. So they make up those "outside" of the Web II meetings (but possibly during campouts). Another option is having another non-Den Leader handle this (we have an Assistant Cubmaster/Webelos that has done this).


    -- So . . . assuming this is what they want, let them earn AoL on their schedule (assuming they are motivated and knock off 8 Activity Badges, the hardest part is the 6 month tenure).


    -- If your AoL and crossover comes before then, when the others get the AoL, they can be recognized for being "very close". When the other Web II Scouts "cross over", if they need more time, they can stand with them on the "Cub side", but not cross the bridge, and saying "Hey! Don't forget about us . . . I'll be with you guys in just ____ days . . . But we're staying to finish Arrow of Light like you guys did!!!"


    -- When the crossed-overs go to Troop Meetings and Outdoor Activities during the gap between crossover and the new guys getting AoL, let the late AoL crowd come and hang with the Troop for repeat visits.


    --- Then on or after the six month mark, they get Arrow of Light and cross over.


    It's actually pretty easy, if you just get the parent or leader to conduct the tutorial on the missing required badges, because while a two year Webelos may earn all 20 badges, ya only need 8 to get AoL. This is not to say that they can't aim for all 20, but if the goal is hang with their Web II guys and cross over into Boy Scouts together . . . it can be done easily.


    Worked great for us.


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