I am a den leader and here are some of my ideas for you if it helps:
Take the boys out to the woods/wilderness in winter or early spring (time when ticks and chiggers are not a problem) and give them a tarp and rope and have them set up a shelter (bring an ax so you can cut wood they may need cut). Review different types of shelters with the cubs before this activity begins. Have two groups do this activity against each other, if the den is large enough.
Take the boys out to the woods/wilderness in winter or spring (time when ticks and chiggers are not a problem) and go along a designated trail for awhile, then show them a map of the trail and get out a reliable compass and show them the direction to travel across a challenging hilly area off-trail (that won’t cause any negative effect to terrain, flora or fauna) to cross over to the other side of the trail and short-cut having to go the entire circle around the trail. Locally, I was going to take the boys to Rockwoods near Eureka and go north on the Kiln Trail for about a quarter mile until you cross over a small bridge and stream. At that point you will see a steep hill with rocks on your right (to the east). Have the boys traverse up this hill and give them your compass to use to continue on until they reach where the trail takes upon again (at that point the trail is close to the crest of the hill; they can follow it in either direction, but I would recommend heading south).
Take the boys out to a designated trail in the woods/wilderness and about halfway along the trail give them a tarp and rope and have the boys pull straws for the order of playing the injured one. They have to use the tarp and rope and whatever materials are available on the ground to build a device to carry the injured scout out of the woods. The boys take turns being the injured party being carried/dragged/pushed/etc…
Cub Derby: Gather boys in auditorium with assorted wood scraps, wheels, wood screws, and screwdrivers laid out. Allow them to build cars in any shape. Parents can assist when power tools or cutting is needed. Provide prizes for speed and appearance. Make an evening of it and order food in for everyone.
Den or Pack Group Building Activity: Gather building materials during warming weather. Divide boys into groups pretending they are American colonists needing to build ramparts (defensive structures) to defend major cities from British invasion. Then have them throw basketballs or soccer balls at the other team’s ramparts to see which rampart will stand the longest.
Den or Pack Camp/Gym style games: sack race pull-on tile floor have two boys pull potato sack while one boys sits on against others; tug-of-war, capture the flag; freeze tag; dodge ball; water balloon toss; variations of freeze-tag; and wheelbarrow race.
Airplane Regatta: Demonstrate 3-4 style of paper airplanes. Allow boys to build three and throw off small ladders.
Cooperation: Conduct trail hike with one rope tied to each boy’s belt loop allow 5 to 10 feet of slack between each boy.
Helpful: Teach various styles of emergency carries and allow the boys to demonstrate.
Collaboration: Demonstrate some basic acrobatic moves for the boys to perform together such as the pyramid. Show these off during pack meetings.
Visit WildlifeRescueCenter for volunteering/tour. (There is one in Ballwin at 636-394-1880 ext. 209 ask for Jesse).
Fourth & Fifth Grade Boys: Paintball; Pole Position Go Kart Education & Racing; Going out in the field with a responsible hunter; rules of poker; Go Ape (tree top ropes course in Creve Coeur); Jay Henges shooting range; Venture Out (UMC)
Rites of Passage: Young people benefit in from rites of passage into adulthood. This experience for boys should entail something physically challenging and perhaps be a bit scary; something they must overcome. In the spring of their last year in cub scouts I wanted to do a two-day hike where we bring all our gear for sleeping overnight; however, we might lose some participants with such a challenge. Therefore, a full one-day hike to a special destiny (RockyFalls in Eminence, MO; Arkansas Waterfalls; or Shawnee Nat’l. Forest) with an overnight campout at the end might gain greater acceptance. Want to make it extra-special: have the parents write a letter to their boys saying what they like about them and read these letters around the campfire & you can even have the boys write the same for their parents.
If you get a den of boys who really get along well, then regardless of whether they go onto boy scouts or not, follow-up after cub scouts with a group called something like the Road Trip Club where boys get together every 3 to 4 months and go out for one-two days trips to parks or special places to explore (follow scout principles to keep the boys safe during these outings). Foster friendships for life!
Spring & Fall Pack Campout: Find organized camp with no programs at that time and arrange overnight (possibly YMCA Camp Carson or Camp Taum Sauk).
Teach basic first aid and have the boys demonstrate it on one another.
Teach the boys the basics of sailing (Arrange sailboat on CreveCoeurLake).
Teach the boys about ropes, pulleys, and levers and have them lift items larger than themselves.
Work with the boys to set up slackline/ropes across a stream and have the boys traverse across.
Contact Conservation Department for volunteer opportunities such as river cleanup.
Building: Tree house, Go-kart, Bon-Fire, Catapult, etc…(dig as deep a hole as they can; examine how soil changes at different depths).
Science: Explain how model rockets and/or hot air balloons work and launch them.
Tours: News Stations, RecycleCenters, Transportation hubs; Water Treatment Centers, US Army Corps of Engineers (
Arsenal Street), USO warehouse
Blue & Gold Dinner: Toward end of meal turn lights low and play slide show with music accompanying.
Pack Meeting: Bring in Wildlife Educator
Zoo Trip: Arrange a Wildlife presentation to your group (St. Louis Zoo: Magnificent Missouri Wildlife) and afterwards have the boys go to an enclosed building with numerous species (i.e., St. Louis Zoo: Bird House or Reptile House) where they kids can be overseen easier by parents and leaders and do a type of treasure hunt where they work in pairs answering questions about the animals on exhibit: Here’s questions I had on paper for the boys in 2018 for the St. Louis zoo birdhouse (Give small dollar prizes to the boys for correctly filling it out):
1. What bird makes a sound like a rattlesnake and lives under the ground?
2. What bird is critically endangered (very few) and has what looks like a red candy corn on top of its head?
3. What bird has a name that comes from a larger animal and has what appears to be a yellow horn on its head?
4. What colorful small bird likes to eat insects especially bees?
5. What blue bird is the largest member of the parrot family?
6. What large bird eats dead animals and has an odd nose?
Answers: 1. Burrowing Owl 2. Horned Guan 3. Rhinoceros Hornbill 4. Carmine Bee-Eater 5. Hyacinth Macaw 6. King Vulture
Similar to the above activity where you pair boys together and give them one pencil and one sheet of paper with questions, you can go to a local library and have them do the following activities (I had these questions/actions listed for the boys at the Daniel Boone Library in 2018):
1. Find and bring me a magazine with a picture of a plant or animal.
2. Make a copy of a wild animal or plant native to Missouri on the copy machine.
3. Find and bring me a book about wild animals or plants.
4. Find and bring me a video about plants or animals.
5. What type of reading material is located upstairs at 741.5973? __________________
6. Write down the name of one of the science kits available called “Sci-Finders”. (Hint: downstairs; ask librarian). ______________________
7. Find and bring me a children’s music CD. (Hint: downstairs)
8. What children’s program will be presented at the library on February 1, 2018 at 7:00 P.M. (Hint: yellow flyer). ________________________
Creek hikes: Best place to hike in summer/early fall due to avoiding chiggers and ticks plus boys love the adventure of discovery and walking on rocks and through the water. (Find creeks with clean water. preferably away from residential/commercial areas and obviously not deep).
Boys just love treasure hunts. I once got to a park early and hid a bunch of clues on Post-It notes leading them to a box of balloons with a scout law in each balloon. They or their parents blew up the balloon and after the boy popped it to find the law, they had to give a brief description of the scout law inside their balloon at the next den meeting.
Boys love finding chocolate coins. I once used Google Earth to make a rough map sketch of a local park and placed X’s on each spot where I hid a gold coins for the boys to find. I then paired the boys up (Tigers) and tied a rope around their belts loops leaving about a foot slack between them forcing them to work together with one map to find the coins. I once got compasses for all the boys and had parents bring tape measures to a meeting and put popsicle sticks in the ground at a park. I then had a grab bag filled with slips of paper providing directions to each popsicle stick (ex. Go five feet north of the park bench and then 10 feet west). The boys worked in pairs and each got a chocolate coin for every popsicle stick they found.
Give the boys an understanding of the place they occupy. The vast majority of America is a rather brief transition from frontier, to farm, and then to town. Become familiar with the inhabitants of the land you occupy and share the history of a place when you explore outdoors. Learn some of the folklore of the native tribes who used to be in your area and tell their stories on campouts. (In Ballwin, MO, the area was occupied for thousands of years by different conquering native tribes ending with the Osage who would trade with the French and later American settlers. Many of the early settlers came from Virginia and Kentucky and farmed the land with slaves until large numbers of German and Irish immigrants settled in the area and started their own farms/businesses. So just about everywhere you go with your scouts will be land that at one time native Americans had lived, hunted, and fought and most developed land will be land slaves had likely worked on sometime from early 1800’s to the 1860’s).
Establish a connection to a local historical site; visit them with your scouts and let your den/troop help preserve the landmark. See if they will let you dig for artifacts.
There are lots of abandoned, small, historic cemeteries overlooked and overgrown; adopt one of these and take care of it.
Rent a powerful telescope for camping or evening den meetings. Daniel Boone library provides such telescopes for no additional charge.
Boys love climbing. Get them outdoors going up steep hills making it to the highest point. Let them experience real woods not just a playground.
Travois Race: Go out to a woods/park with fallen trees that aren’t picked up, break into two teams, supply rope and have each team build travois with logs and branches from the woods making two branches go across the travois for one cub scout to sit on during the race, and then race the travois against each other in a clearing in a straight line or a circle. (SiebertPark is ideal for this, plus they have a cool cave).
Find a mud run in your area that will accept scouts the age of your den/troop to participate.
Find a dense area of woods in between residential housing that was never developed due to the rugged nature of the land (usually around a stream). Hike through it in the dead of winter and explain to the boys how the landscape is what native Americans would have experienced when they lived and hunted in these woods. Use this as an opportunity for the boys to learn to use maps and compasses. (In Ballwin,MO there is a such an area between Baxter and Clayton Roads close to the Oakleigh Woods Subdivision).
Dig for arrowheads------arrowheads and spears were found at excavation sites in Country Lane Woods subdivision (Manchester, MO).
Build a rope bridge across a stream and have a goal of transporting supplies over this bridge without getting them wet.
Contact Dept. of Conservation, get materials on local birds, go to an area park and separate into two groups and make a list of the different local birds on a grid sheet and see how many of each the different groups can spot.