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Posts posted by anotherguy

  1. Current Bears in a Cub Scout Pack I've been part of for many years started with a large group of Lions.  As Lions, they met once per month.  This was a pack committee decision that was intended to start the kindergarteners out slowly.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, they've kept that once-per month den meeting schedule through Tigers, Wolves, and Bears.  Ours is a typical suburban public school pack with kids involved in multiple competing sports and after school programs.  Most of our dens meet twice per month plus a pack meeting.  The Council's reccomended course includes Cub Scouts activities once per week. (3 weekly den meetings plus one pack meeting, plus 3 or 4 Council camp options throughout the year). For the reasons others have stated, low den meeting frequency (once per month) may lead to:

    • Lowered interest.  That den has proportionally low pack meeting participation too.
    • Very long meetings. 2+ hours.  Kids get bored and restless.
    • Multiple adventures covered in one meeting.  How good can a program or activity be if you're just doing the Cliff's Notes version of it?
    • Any absences become very problematic.  Miss one meeting and you're way behind.  
    • I know that advancement isn't a goal, but for a Cub Scout to earn adventure loops, they must allow shortcuts.

    I've been raising the alarm and mentioning these things literally for years to the den's leaders and the committee.  The irony here is that this particular den has one of the highest membership retention rates of any in the pack.  They started out big, and they still are.  A few Scouts have left, but a few others have joined and taken their place.  So, what's the secret to their high membership numbers?

    • Involved & interested parents.  This absolutely must be the key to this den's retention. While some sit in the back of the room on their phones the whole time, this den has a dynamic den leader and multiple adl's. Other parents help at the pack level as cubmaster, committee members, fundraising chair, treasurer, and outdoor/camping chair.  
    • High council camping participation rates.  This den goes to our council's weekend summer camp.  They also attend other council-based fall, winter and spring day-camp events.

    Sorry for the mixed message, but I mention all this to not advocate once-per-month den meetings.  But if it can't be avoided, there are a few key factors I've noticed which may mitigate some of those problems.  Bottom line is that a succesful Cub Scouts experience originates with engaged parents & adult volunteers. 

  2. .....

    I know of at least one pack that has some sort of combined meeting where the dens all meet the same night, then they come together for a pack gathering.... or maybe it;'s the other way around with pack first....


    At first glance this sounds like a great idea. But then, thinking about the new program it might get very complicated where there are generally 2 den meetings + 1 den outing to earn and adventure loop.  What if a single parent has a Tiger and a Wolf?  Where does that parent spend their time if one den is going on their outing and the other is doing one of their meetings?  That might get tricky.

  3. BSA has released a full set of new pack meeting plans.  There's enough of them to cover two years of pack meetings.  Each one corresponds to a point of the Scout Law, but they can be done "out of order" to accommodate regional weather differences and other factors.


    I'm impressed.  I've just taken a brief look at 5 or 6 months of the new plans and believe they're very well thought out, integrate with the Scout Law points, and appear extremely easy to follow.  


    I know many of us like to customize our own pack meeting plans, but with a framework as good as this new setup is, I see little need to stray very far from the provided outlines.


    Check 'em out here: 

    • Upvote 2

  4. Do what's best for your boys. Don't get caught up in the sentimentality of keeping a historic but struggling unit going- regardless of how long it's been around. You're not there to serve the Troop or the Chartered Org, you're there to serve the boys. Think about the big picture, help the boys get the most out of their Boy Scout experiences. Also, don't underestimate the good that all of you can do if you combined with the other Troop. Investing your time and energy into helping the new Troop become an even better Troop will be a win-win for all and has the additional possibility of attracting more quality members to the BSA.

  5. ... The council website is not as good as it could/should be, so advertising there tends to be mediocre. Also, the associated council/district Facebook pages aren't keep up-to-date.


    As a consequence, unit turnout at district events is spotty at best. I would say get more unit representation at Roundtables and bolster the social media presence. Get the word out there in the media in which the newer leaders are accustomed. Paper flyers should be stopped, too. Electronic media works best today, I think.


    LeCastor nailed it. Around here, the younger leaders among us are accustomed to receiving info via email, website, Facebook, text, or other electronic means. The families that those leaders communicate with are often even younger, using Facebook, Twitter and other mobile apps. The schools around us have gone "paperless" too- no paper flyers sent home with kids. Not even report cards! On the other hand, the most experienced (and often far older) leaders among us run the Roundtable meetings. Those older leaders pass out the flyers, photocopied papers from an old leader book, etc. Obviously the heart is in the right place but the big generational divide is holding things back.


    The same effort that's required to host a Roundtable should go into better electronic communications. After all, businesses have been moving in this direction for years.


    As of now it seems many Units that have websites use some form of a Frankensteined free google site, or one that was built in the 1990's. The District sites aren't much better. These send a loud & clear message that "we're out of touch" to the general public or anyone who's interested in joining. Not good.


    National BSA needs to move forward into the new century. BSA should standardize and offer a unified communications approach embracing the technology that young families and their kids use. This'll be especially important now that the programs are undergoing significant changes. BSA needs to provide electronic communication support (standardized website templates, email templates, Facebook templates to its Councils, Districts and most importantly its Units. Units should be given the option to use a BSA-hosted and branded website with the Unit's "branding" to communicate to their families.


    As part of that move into the 21st century, rechartering, registering, and submitting Annual Health & Medical Records, various waivers etc should all move online. For now though, that may be a bridge too far.



    • Downvote 1

  6. For me, Rountable is one of the least productive aspects of scouting. Our Cub Scout sessions are regularly without any theme or purpose. The older Scouters don't often have current info either. When I've attended I pointed out (important) conflicting info found on the Council's website to the older Scouter leading the session. The response was a resigned "Oh well, just go ahead and rely on the info on the website". This didn't really instill confidence among those attending and doesn't provide a reason to return. The Scouter's heart was in the right place of course and I appreciate their service. But if I want reliable info, I'll visit the Council and Distrcit website and happily skip RT.

  7. Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this. You're probably right that Cub camping is an intro to families who haven't camped before. The problem I see is that the brand new families to our pack's campouts get a pretty strong first impression of what "camping" is. I think this first impression of "camping" may turn some folks away. First, to support one of our pack car camping trips a lot of gear and "stuff" is required. That means volunteers are needed to inventory, haul, unload, setup, etc. all this stuff. It requires a big effort from a number of folks, and I think that's daunting and off-putting. Second, most of the participants stay in cabins which do have some home comforts, but they're also loud (with squeeky bunks, slamming screen doors, and snoring men). My point to all this is that although Cub camping may be an intro to Scout camping, what are we really introducing them to?


    I agree with a number of your comments and appreciate your points of view. jc2008 may be right that I'm losing sight of what the ultimate goal is. DuctTape also gave some advice that especially resonated with me: Emphasize the destination.


    I'm motivated now to look for more "destination" type day hikes that could have future potential as camping spots. Adding on a few outdoor skills activities (fire building, way finding with a map and compass, plant/tree identification, etc...) would make the destination even more fun.


    Thanks again for all your input. There's some really good ideas in here... keep 'em coming!

  8. Thanks for all of your thoughts and suggestions. I admit I'm probably a bit impatient with the Cub Scouts camping idea. As a family, we will venture a little further beyond the parking lot. For the pack, I think I'll suggest a few more day hike outings to provide some "lite" adventures.


    I hope that the long-awaited new Cub Scouts program will emphasize the "outing in Scouting". Looking forward to it!

  9. I was never a Boy Scout, but I did earn my Arrow of Light many years ago. As a kid, our pack never spent much time outdoors. All hiking and camping experience I gained was outside of Scouting.


    My son's in Cub Scouts and he really enjoys it. As a leader, I'd like to make sure that our pack does spend more time outdoors. I've seen how important it is to get the boys outside having fun together.


    Problem is, some of the outdoor experiences we've experienced in Cub Scouts haven't been very adventurous. Don't get me wrong, we enjoy and attend all the Council day camps and weekend summer camps. Our pack also does an annual campout, which is essentially a car camping experience with lots and lots of bulky heavy gear. The campsite is a 20 step walk from the gravel parking lot, leaders lug in heavy cast iron dutch ovens skillets, haul in 100 pound patrol boxes and rubbermaid tubs full of groceries, etc. We have fun but it's nearly identical to tailgating...only with more trees around. Overnight, most folks sleep on bunks inside cabins although a few sleep in tents outside. This style of camping is fine, just like RV camping is fine, but I know there's more adventure out there.


    For those of you who are in packs that emphasize the outdoors, what kinds of things do you do that venture beyond parking lot camping? I'm not looking to swing completely to the opposite end of the spectrum with ultralight hike/camping (because of the gear required and expense), but I know there's a middle ground.


    How can I start to introduce a little more outdoor adventure?

    How do I ease those with zero experience into giving the outdoors a try?

    How can I convince the experienced car campers to venture out a little more?

  10. We've found great success using the widely available google-based Cub Scout template. (Google to find it) It's customizable to each unit's needs. We also send brief emails with links to info posted on the pack's website.


    By far, our most effective tool is our online subscribable calendar. Google hosts these for free. We have a pack calendar and one for each den. That way our families only get the info they need. Tigers don't need to know when the Webelos campout is, etc... This calendar integrates well with the template based website I mentioned previously. Families can sync these calendars with their home computers, mobile devices, phones, etc. If a new meeting is scheduled or a location or time changes to an existing meeting, it's automatically updated at each pack subscriber's electronic device. Works amazingly well.


    We also use Facebook, but not nearly to the same extent.




  11. I think the blue webbing Cub Scout belt was designed to be worn as any other belt. I've only seen it worn threaded through the fabric belt loops on the pants (usually jeans).


    There are a lot of boys that wear track/warmup/sweat pants. (Sometimes I think they wear them as pajamas too). But those don't work with the Cub Scout belt, and the belt (if they have one) is often left at home.

  12. Here's a story that's bound to make you feel good.


    I have a son in Cub Scouts and two daughters in Girl Scouts. They all enjoy building and participating in the Pinewood Derby. Our pack is very welcoming, and have a sibling race that our girls love to compete in.


    The local Girl Scouts Service Unit (similar to a Cub Scouts pack/district) also holds an annual PWD for their Girl Scouts in our area. A few months ago, unfortunately, it looked as though they wouldn't be able to hold their annual Pinewood Derby. The pack they had previously worked with (who loaned the track, ran the races, etc.), wasn't able to help anymore. My wife is a GSUSA Troop Leader and suggested that our pack might be interested in helping out.


    A few months ago I brought the idea to our Pack Committee and without hesitation everyone said that we should absolutely help the Girl Scouts Service Unit with their PWD this year. Today we worked side by side with them. They really loved our pack's high-tech track and we had the privilege of seeing how creative the girl's cars were. It was a great event and fun to see cooperation between the two organizations and scouts.


    Both of my daughters placed very well in their respective classes (Brownie & Cadette). That made them very happy and proud. Of course I was too.


    As we all finished cleaning up and putting away the track, our leaders were speaking with the Girl Scouts leader. Apparently, everyone was so pleased with the way today turned out that our pack's guys had volunteered again. This time to help set up and run the GSUSA Service Unit race again next year and also help set up and run the GSUSA District/Council/Region (not sure exactly what it's called) race too! Amazing.


    Here's the thing that really made me proud to be part of this organization: Out of the more than 6 uniformed Cub Scouts leaders who volunteered today, not one of them had a daughter... only sons. Not one of them had a personal connection in the GSUSA program- just me. They all just recognized that the goals of each of our organizations are worth investing time in. All our kids (even if they aren't our kids) are worth it.


    If that doesn't embody scout spirit, I'm not sure what does.

    • Upvote 1

  13. 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.



    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.

  14. 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.

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

  15. 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.
    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.

  16. 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)



    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.

  17. 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.
    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).

  18. 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.





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