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webelos to scout...if I had it to do over again...

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There have been a number of posts relating to the topic of relationships between troops and packs, appropriate use of and expectations surrounding provision of den chiefs, and how to improve the retention of scouts crossing from webelos to boy scouts.


I was a Webelos Den Leader, still my favorite job in scouting to date. Kids that age are great fun to work with and I really liked the structure of the webelos program. I think it provides a pretty appropriate level of challenge for most boys in that age range, while also maintaining a whole lot of flexibility.


As a WDL I thought I had a pretty good handle on the transition stuff. I did all the reading I could on the boy scout program, encouraged our boys to really consider all of the troops in town, arranged for our boys to attend activities with them, did more outdoor-oriented "stuff" with them as webelos, and so on.


That was close to three years ago now. Today, of the 13 or 14 W II boys from our pack (two dens - one I had nothing to do with) only 3 are still active in boy scouting. Most dropped out in their first year. Some would have no matter what, and didn't even attend a full month of troop meetings. Some probably would have been happier in other troops than the one they joined. Some were not mentally prepared for boy scouts. Some had parents who weren't interested in staying with the program, or who didn't understand the basic purposes of the boy scout program.


To be fair, I see this happen every year in lots of different troops with practically every group of cross-over scouts, so I don't think it was my "fault" that many boys fell through the cracks in the transition process. But, in hindsight and with the benefit of a much better understanding of the nature of boy scout troops vs. webelos dens and cub scout packs, there are plenty of things I wish I had known as a WDL, instead of discovering later on! And there wasn't really anybody to tell me these things at the time I was a WDL.


So, in that spirit, for those of you who have been on both sides of the fence - webelos leaders and troop leaders - what one or two constructive and specific things would you encourage an eager WDL to do (or NOT do) as part of making their webelos program as effective as possible? To borrow from Beavah's rules in some other threads - this isn't about bashing either side of the equation or opening up an "us vs. them" theme - but about really offering hard-earned insights into what works, what doesn't, and why. A Scout(er) is helpful.





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Make sure the Webelos PARENTS understand the boy scout program. I have a glossary of terms and a chart showing the cub scout/boy scout differences (e.g., dens v patrols, camping, uniform, frequency of meetings).


Make the PARENTS of the new scouts welcome in the troop - encourage them to volunteer (find them a job). The biggest factor I see in boys staying involved in scouting is their parents being involved.

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HI lisabob.


I have a pretty good handle on the subject, but Im not sure what youre asking. I believe must of the problem of first year scouts quitting in the first year is more of a troop problem. Oh there are a few things a Webelos leader can do (or not do) to help a boy stay in a troop longer, but the burden is really on the Troop.


On the other hand, are you looking for ideas to help Webelos leaders just get their boys into the Troop program? Then there is the different but related problem Im sure you are seeing at a district level of boys who are in Webelos, but not enjoying it because it is a poor program. Most of those guys are not going into the Troops.


We can approach each part of the problem, or are you really thinking more specifically of loosing first year scouts?




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Hi Barry,


(grin) I once had a professor whose mantra was that cloudy thoughts make for cloudy writing. I've often found that she was right. Thanks for asking for clarification and I'll try to do better.


In general I agree that much of what happens in that first year of boy scouting is way beyond the control of webelos den leaders to influence. Troops with good first year programs do have a much lower attrition rate than those without such programs. And yes I do see this at the district level all the time when I look at membership numbers.


But I guess I was thinking about some of the things that we did in our webelos den that weren't helpful in acclimating the boys (and parents) toward what they should expect from a boy scout troop. For example, in another thread I posted that as webelos we actually switched from weekly meetings to (longer) bi-monthly meetings, in order to give the boys more meeting time in one sitting to do projects & activities. And that was entirely practical, convenient, and worked well for us at the time, but did NOT prepare boys and their parents for the reality that all of the local boy scout troops meet every week. I did not understand what an adjustment that was going to be for people until after the boys crossed over and several parents expressed the view that these weekly troop meetings were just too much for their schedules. So if I had it to do again, I would have stayed with weekly meetings for our webelos den.


That's a small thing. But it is an example of things that I did not see until after spending some time in the troop side of the program. And it would have been nice to have the benefit of other people's experiences, when I was still a WDL!


So I suppose what I'm looking for here are lessons learned from specific experience - what kinds of things would be helpful for Webelos Leaders (some of whom have direct experience with boy scouting, some of whom do not) to do, not do, pass on to their den's parents & boys, etc..?


(the question of how troops should develop a good 1st year scout program is, I hope, a different thread)



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The most important thing that I think most Webelos parents are not prepared for is exactly what the Boy Scout Program is and how it operates; you know aims and methods kind of thing. If I could do my Webelos 2 den transition again, I'd take the parents out to our Council campground without their kids, form a patrol and go through a typical campout weekend with them - almost like Scoutmaster Outdoor Training. Now to do this I would have had to borrow the Troop trailer and maybe the Scoutmaster for the weekend, but I think we could have accomplished a lot toward teaching them just what the Boy Scout program is and how it can benefit their sons. Realistically, I don't know if we could have pulled something like this off, but I can dream, right?


But really, maybe we can brainstorm here about how to help parents of Webelos to understand and "buy into" the whole program. I think that is key. Most boys who quit Scouts in the first year have parent who really don't care about whether they are in Scouts or not. I think the hard sell needs to be to the parents.


From the boys perspective if you can keep them in for the first 12-18 months, they'll be around for a while longer. Especially if they make First Class by then. I'm not one to necessarily push advancement, but the boys that are advancing tend to want to advance more and stay around. Again, most of this depends on parents being "on-board" with the program.


Another thing that I think is very important is Summer Camp. If a boy transistions in February (or later in the Spring) to a Boy Scout Troop and does not go to Summer Camp, it is my experence that most if not all will not stay. Getting them to Summer Camp their first year seems to help them acclimate to the troop and feel connected to their Patrol / Troop. This is another sell for the parents. They must be convinced that their "baby boy" will be OK for a week away from home and that the $200 or so is money well spent. This hard sell could start in Webelos and continue after they join the Troop.


Well, those are my thoughts for now... Anyone else want to take some Webelos parents camping???



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I agree with Eagledad nearly all the problems of boys leaving a troop has to do with the troop and not what the boy did 1 - 2 years ago as webelos. Heck, the Boy Scout program is designed for kids to come in off the street and join. All those things you did as a webelos leader improved his retention in the troop. Thinking you should done this or held additional parent meetings during the year to help with the transition, I say, ttthhhpppptt! It would not have changed a thing.


My own reflection:


What I did right as a webelos leader: Camped. We did den camping as wolves. Yea there is a five page thread on my first campout complete with Bob White at his finest back in 2003. Interestingly that den was bigger than my current troop. For us, camping as a den really unified the families I think it is what made us so tight that 4 years latter we started a new troop together.


What I could have done better; Done things just for the fun of it. I got too caught up in "we only do things that get us achievements". More outings. You can't have too many outings.


What I did wrong: I should have recruited more scouts at the Webelos 1 stage. I let one slip by me and to this day I regret not doing a better job to getting him to join our den. I think many might think that joining at Webelos 1 is too late. I would say W1 is the perfect time and packs should focus hard on recruiting forth graders.


The transition: We visited four different troops and picked the one we thought was best. It turned out to be a dud. We should have looked at even more troops.



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Wow, I guess we just lucked out. My son and seven of his friends all crossed over together. Our home school pack mostly feeds into our affiliated home school troop so these guys stayed together. Most have been together since Tigers. We made them their own patrol with the intention of assimilating them into the other patrols after camp.


Nothing doing! These guys are all active, with active parents, earning rank and merit badges. Everyone in the troop is proud of these new guys and admits that they are the best organized and most active patrol.


I was their den leader for Wolf and Bear but gave the den over to a friend when my youngest joined Tigers so I could lead his den. Now he's a Bear so I get to be a Webelo leader next year. Hopefully we'll be able to repeat that success.


I do agree though that parents make the program. We've got University of Scouting this weekend and have a ton of people going, including several dad's who are not in uniform but want to learn how to help out the troop and pack run better, be MB counselors etc.


I love the idea of a parents only campout. That would be a blast and get the point across.

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Let me second (or third) the concept of getting the parents up to speed as quickly as possible. Scouting isn't Webelos III, and helping manage the parents expectations will go a long way towards your retention.


Using the new-boy patrol concept might also help (especially if you have enough ASMs and/or Troop Guides to serve in an advisory role), since it helps the boys develop an identity along with like-age boys (some of whom they'll already have friendships with from Cubs?).


Having been the patrol advisor to several new boy patrols, I'd say that a third of my time is spent advising the parents, and once they "get it" as far as the difference between Cubs and Scouts, they tend to ease out of hover mode pretty quickly.


Putting an 11 year old in with a bunch of 13 and 14 year olds and expecting the 11 year old to be immediately accepted doesn't always work, but it's always fun to see a patrol made up mainly of 11 year olds start winning patrol competitions!

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I know homeschoolers and I know their dedication to their children and to "raisinemright". I'm assuming that most or all of the boys in your son's patrol are home schooled with dedicated parents. If the parents have their boys in Scouts, they they must really "buy-into" the program, and it doesn't suprise me that they are active/involved parents.


The involvement of the parents is key to their boy's attendance and success.


Keep up the good work.



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Definitely communicate with the parents. Even though the Webelo may chose one troop, the parent usually has the final say in my experience. The "parents only" trip is an excellent idea. May have to try it.


One other idea is a parents only meeting where troop history, adult leadership is explained, how a troop functions, etc is discussed. Leeting the parent know that they are welcome to join the committee or as an adult leader is useful to bring new ideas into the troop. Another item to mention in this meeting would be that if you join the troop, but then decide the troop is not for them, please ask about transfer. Maybe that way we can keep more boys in scouting if the parents know that transfer is an option.

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I am a scoutmaster of a troop. I went through cubs with my sons many moons ago. We did not do Webolos, but sat the time out for sports. Then joined a troop. Now they have aged out.


I got three boys cross over from Webolos this year. They have yet to go camping with us. I keep asking the boys, and they keep saying that their parents won't let them go camping with us. YIKES.


I finally cornered one of the moms as she dropped off her kid. I asked if her son could go camping with us at a council camp for a "Webolos Woods" event where we show off our troop to next years scouts. I was flabergasted. She said that her boy could only go camping with a parent, and that since her husband works each weekend, and she is working on her master's degree, there was no time for a parent to go camping. I tried to tell her that we take the greatest safety precautions, have experience scouters ready to serve, and usually don't take that many parents along. No good. She would not hear of it.


I surmise that she is so used to the "Mom and Me" or "Dad and Lad" type of campout for the cubs, that she does not know that "Camping-R-Us" in a scout troop.


I can see that I will have a big adjustment to my comments to Webelos parents when they visit. The way I see it, if you dont camp, then why bother. Camping is the first tenderfoot requirement, after all.


I hope the Webelos den leaders will tell everyone that a good troop camps every month.



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I'd say that camping as a Webelos den was one of the best things we did. Gradually increase the boys' responsibility, so that when they do cross over, they are well-prepared. I've looked back over our retention, and the groups that did the most camping have the best retention. It's not clear that it's causal - it could be that people who want to go camping are already more likely to stay in Scouts, but we certainly noticed how easily they slid into their roles in the troop.


I doubt I could get the Webelos parents to go camping without the boys, but we do try to have the one joint campout during which we spend a lot of time with the parents away from the boys.


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Can I play? forgive the long post but this subject is near and dear to my heart!


Webelos to Scouts -What to do?....Retention will always be an issue...lots of reasons for dropping out- but we need to remember to beat ourselves up only over those issues we can change...


that said:


ALL WEBELOS LEADERS SHOULD HAVE OUTDOOR LEADER TRAINING! As I have said before old "W-LOT" training was some of the most useful I have seen come out of BSA...While most was not new to me I only had to look around to see "brains" clicking and ideas forming...Most of the Adult leaders were getting a useful weekend of training (mostly on what could be done...not wat not to do!)


Webelos dens need to start transitioning to the patrol method... as "Webelos I's", which means den leaders must understand the patrol method...understand it not just know it as a phrase to use.


Webelos dens need to campout a few times...or more! Local scout troops can help with this...just ask them for assistance!


Webelos dens should meet weekly (our pack incouraged all dens to meet three/four times a month outside of the monthly Pack meeting.


Webelos leaders (having an Idea of which Troops in the area are "available" for their boys to cross into) should get together with those troops early in the Webelos II year (late webelos I?) to get summercamp details and get this information out to the Webelos parents...Info is cheap...and is not classified "TOP SECRET"...giving it out does not mean parents are committing to troops, but it starts planting seeds for future decision making.


Troops need to work with Packs- den chiefs, co ordinated outdoors events and pack demonstrations are vital to building bridges and helping Webelos (and parents) determine which troop is a better fit...


NSPs need to be assigned good guides (strong scouts - not your weakest!.


NSPs need a strong, and well trained ASM assigned to help them along...and generally we find it better to have an Adult leader who does not have a boy in the patrol (an older troop dad). Of course any and all of the WEBELOS DADS wanting to assist are welcome...(fill ot the form get trained, put on a uniform and pour a cup of "Joe").


SPL needs to be aware that the NSPs need their own training program as well as troop training when he plans his weekly/monthly/annual meetings (and program)


SPL and troop Guides need to be sure that NSPs are having fun...just turning the NSP loose to plan for a camp out three weeks in a row will not work!


Troop needs to train Webelos parents...communicate early on and often, what the troop "vision" is...What is expected and wanted from new scouts and parents. Frankly, many of us want to load up our troops with all comers...(a quanity over quality issue?)...The thinking sorta goes along the lines of "if some scouts drop out -as long as you recruited a bunch-you're ok!". When in reality, if you work hard at getting webelos (and parents) who believe in your troop's vision ...to join with you, you are starting well ahead of any "numbers" game.


After all if you can identify a "webelos III" family in advance and you know your troop offers a (somewhat?) chaotic, outdoors crazy, boy led high adventure type program...you are doing the webelos and the troop a diservice in wasting the boys time and the troop's resources by recruiting them...It seems to me that all would be better off if the Webelos III family could be directed elsewhere.


Use your new scout patrol shakedown campout to train parents as well as new scouts in the patrol method. (We prefer this event to be a scout leaders (SPL, ASPL, Guides and a few instructors)and NSPs only event...most of our boys stay home or do patrol activities for this event weekend...We find that it takes a lot of pressure off the NSP if they do not feel they have to "perform" as well as the older scouts...so with pressure off -they learn more!


As has been said here before...there is a direct connection between parent interest/support and retention...We see year in year out that the NSPs with the most active parent bases have the greatest retention rates. We also see, year in- year out, that the retention rates of webelos dens that have never camped as cubs or have only been out once or twice are truely dismal.


Recently we witnessed two new scout patrols cross-over to our troop from the same Pack. One patrol was adult led by a "gung ho" guy who seemed to be running a 7 scout mini boy scout troop...the kids loved being in the woods, hiking, fishing, even cooking. About half the parents could be said to be really active.


The second patrol was led by a lady (a dear and old fiend of mine) who had no clue about camping (didn't like it) and although most of her Webelos had 18-20 activity pins and AOLs they had never experienced real outdoors activities. Family camping was simply a parent catered event. They also had only one dad even slightly interested in helping...


At the start -two troop guides (A good guide and a weaker back up) and an outstanding senior adult ASM were assigned to mentor but after roughly 6 months (including a trip to summercamp for about half of them)...five of seven boys have left the troop program...The poor SM and the outstanding ASM are beside themselves wondering what they did wrong...


Exit interviews with boys (and a parent for each) all pointed to the same things...

too much work, camping was not fun, hiking was too hard, cleaning dishes was moms job, independent advancement was too much like school work...But, the video game centered "lock-in" at the local rec center with pizza and sodas was cool!...we needed more of that!


These boys expectations were different, their training was different, the parent support was different...and it led to a systematic program disaster. The troop could have done better (of course -we all can) but IMHO it was just a bad fit and these boys had no real chance...from the start...I firmly think they needed a webelos III troop.


A similar situation was what got me working with our troop a full year before my oldest son crossed over (12-13 years ago). As a Webelos I leader, I watched a whole patrol from our pack quickly unravel after it crossed over. I wanted to be sure my son was heading to a good troop, so I started helping out. It was quckly apparent that the troop (at that time) had a sink or swim attitude towards new scouts...and a program aimed at high adventure and very weak on new scout activities. But it was equally clear that the adult den leader who went "up" with the boys had no parent support and expected the troop to be an arts and crafts-class room rank/merit badge mill...which it definietly was not....again a poor fit...I might add-the other patrol that crossed over with her patrol that year,produce 3 eagles and 5 of six boys aged out...so it obvisously was not just a "bad troop" thing.


Last, programs (ccaisionally)need to evolve; in business speak the clientele changes! Older adults need to let the younger guys and gals help direct the troop into the future. Just as new scouts grow into leadership positions new parents must ne encouraged to step up and take over...



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I am about to open a can of worms here, but isnt that what makes discussion forums fun?


I am a member of an LDS unit, and as such, we follow the LDS scouting structure, which is Webelos is a 1 year program, then at age 11, the boy crosses over to the 11 yr old Scouts instead of the traditional Webelos II portion of the Webelos program. At age 12, the boy then joins the regular Boy Scout Troop.


I often hear and read about confusion amongst LDS and non-LDS Scouters regarding the LDS Scouting structure. One of the most common questions I get is, How can you [LDS] people get a boy through the Webelos program in only one year?


Well, let me pose this question How can boys make their transition from Webelos to Boy Scouts without much of an introduction to the Boy Scout program? And what is the goal here? Arent we all trying to help these boys make the transition to Boy Scouts a smooth one?


There are several reasons the LDS units have this 11 yr old Scouting program, most of which is outside the scope of this discussion. However, one very good benefit of that program is the orientation and preparation the boy receives during that year. We try our very best to get each boy to First Class by the end of that year. This exposes the boy to real outdoor experiences, helps them to understand the fundamentals of Boy Scouting, and provides experiences which build their self-confidence before entering the troop.


Another aspect to LDS units is the benefit of having a troop already within the structure of the same Chartered Organization as the pack. This means that much of the time, the Webelos age boys often already know the Boy Scout Troop and joining the troop is usually not a scary or uncomfortable experience.


So theres my pitch for LDS units. Undoubtedly, there are those who have misconceptions or objections to the LDS method of Scouting, however, I find it a well thought out program and (when run properly) has a good chance of keeping boys in Scouting.



In answer to your question, I wonder if there are some concepts that can be taken from the LDS method and applied to traditional units. Can there be more preparation in the Webelos II time period to help these boys make their transition to Boy Scouts more smooth?


Eagle Pete

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EagleSon entered a Troop which was in its 2d year. All the 1st year youth came from two dens 1 full year cycle ahead.


There were NO older youth to assist in guiding the younger youth. Whilst boy-run, this Troop became to me an example (at least for a while) of boy run roughshod.


To make matters worse, when that first group turned 14, the founding SM grabbed them all and formed a Venturing Crew.


My conclusions:


- Web II families, indeed, need orientation that a Boy Scout Troop is not a Web III den!


- Troops starting up need to find start-up leadership. Two patrols of Tenderfeet (or by the time we joined, arriving First Class) are not ready to make the mature decisions a proper PLC needs.


- You do not gut a Troop by taking away a year group of boys, no matter how cohesive they are. As a Scouter, and a founder of a new unit, you owe loyalty to the unit you created.

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