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Tiger Foot

Rapid growth, few volunteers, parent conduct, advice?

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That is an interesting question.  I think a 'waiting list' is absolutely the wrong way to go.  That happened to my daughter when she tried to join Girl Scouts.  She was told that the Troop was 'full.'  Does anyone truly think we should deny a child the opportunity to participate in Scouting for a year because we (as adults) aren't doing our best to staff the open positions in our units? 

 

Yes, some of this has to fall on the parents of these kids, but I think in most cases parents don't step up because of reasons the Pack leadership could fix.  For example - if the parent's see that the Cubmaster and one or two Den Leaders are doing everything - that shouldn't be happening.  There should be a Pack Committee that handles things like the Popcorn sale, picking up badges at the Scout shop, collecting and proessing applications, etc.  If the parents see one or two Leaders doing all of that - no wonder they don't want to volunteer.  Yet time after time when I visit Packs as a Commissioner that is exactly what I see.

 

Or, we have Pack Committee Chairs and Cubmaster making a general appeal to a room full of parents.  Again, that shouldn't be happening (or shouldn't be the only method).  Look at the guides I linked above... you are supposed to wine and dine (figuratively) your candidate and ask them individually to fill a role.  How many of you can say that happened for you?  In a way it happened for me, but the outgoing Cubmaster didn't do a great job of selling the position to me... she's lucky that a Scout is Helpful and I try to live by the Law.  Her salesmanship definitely left something to be desired.

 

Or, we fail to think outside the box.  Do you have any colleges nearby?  Do you think there are any former Boy Scouts attending those Colleges who are looking for a way to stay active in Scouting?  Or perhaps students in the Education degree programs who want to gain extra experience working with youth?  Or retired grandpas or grandmas who were Scouters when their kids were young?

 

If you've exhausted every method for finding a den leader, and your Pack has a healthy Committee, then as a Scout be Helpful and find them another Pack.  Don't waitlist someone... somewhere there is a Pack that can take on additional boys, and that boy deserves a chance to experience Scouting from the day they first fill out an application until the day they age out.  Talk to your Unit Commissioner or District Executive if you don't know of a unit, I'm sure they can help you find one for those kids.

Thank you.  If we aren't able to generate interest in someone becoming a new leader, helping them find another Pack is a good idea, because I absolutely have to say no to more boys than I can handle.  

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You're welcome, and I agree with your assessment.  I've said it before but I'll say it again.  A healthy den is 6-8 boys:

 

A den of five boys can survive, but it's reaching the point where it might not.  If one boy moves away you are down to four and that's not enough.  With four boys, if one boy is sick or can't make a den meeting you no longer have enough boys to partner up into two teams, and many games require at least four boys.  I've tried running dens with 3-4 boys and it doesn't work well... the level of fun drops and more boys are likely to drift away.  Even at five you risk 1-2 being out sick and falling below that minimum level for 'fun.'

 

Yes, you can stretch a den to nine boys, but only if you have help from parents or an assistant den leader.  At nine boys, you can't really completely split into two because one group would be down to 3-4 boys, and as I said in the paragraph above, that isn't enough to maintain the appropriate level of fun.  You might be able to get away with two dens if you meet at the same time/place, then you can bring the dens together for group games or if someone is out sick.

 

By the time you reach 10-11 boys, you really have enough for two dens, and should split the den.  A den of five isn't ideal but can survive if all five are dedicated to Scouting.

 

At 12+ you'd be crazy not to split the den in half, and once you hit 18 you can start thinking about dividing into three dens.  At 24+ per rank, I'd start thinking about spliting into two Packs.  If you maintain that level of interest across age levels, that's a Pack with over 100 kids, and while it can be done it can also succumb to chaos at Pack meetings.  Rarely do I see a Pack with more than 2-3 dens per rank.  Usually it's more like 1-2.

 

Again, we aren't doing kids favors when we try to have too many kids with too few leaders.  Instead of fun, we can end up with chaos and that isn't fun for the parents, kids, or leaders.  So knowing your limits is good, and being open and honest with parents will help with recruiting more leaders.  If you let things descend into chaos, then you aren't likely to find many parents who want to jump into that chaos with you.  If you can get the help before the chaos starts, it will be much easier.

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I've gotta chuckle.  In my case it was/is a constant tiptoe.  Mom often thinks that I am spending too much time and energy on Son, while not reciprocating with the girls and her.  It's a tiptoe along the highwire thing....

 

 

and don't expect much thanks in return.....

Well I think you get the kudos in Cubbing and blow back in Boy Scouts in my personal experience.

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Thank you all again, here's a quick update after tonight's meeting:

 

The previous cubmaster got back to me and agreed with my basic plan. Can't tell you how nice it is to have experienced ears to listen to your ideas! With his help, the current cubmaster was much more engaged tonight as well.

 

I got the tiger den split into two dens, 10 scouts each. In den 1, I have a den leader and assistant, and those parents have divided up adventures and have a good start on mapping out their year. In den 2, I have a den leader, and several possible assistants. These are the parents who contemplated starting their own den... They had a bit more to discuss. At this point I think they want to stay and are just going to meet on a different night.

 

I also got all our current leaders to help me out tonight so I could talk with parents... Go team!

 

I started with an apology, that we should have had an orientation of some sort for them. Then I did the visual demonstration of s scouts years from up thread. That drew a lot of smiles and helped dispel the last of the frustration. Then we talked about shared leadership, adult partners, and the need to be involved. They were pretty well primed, and most of the parents stepped right up.

 

After that it was mostly answering questions and facilitating.

 

I think it went pretty well on all fronts... I'm guardedly calling this a success.

 

And to top it off, I have two Lion parents with previous scout experience who want to serve as guides/leaders, so I should be able to split them very soon as well.

 

The final cherry... The current leaders hung around afterwards and we put together a rough plan for a new scout orientation next year that will incorporate many of the ideas you all have shared.

 

I think we're on track now. I feel much, much better than when I started this post. I really appreciate you all sharing your experience!

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The final cherry... The current leaders hung around afterwards and we put together a rough plan for a new scout orientation next year that will incorporate many of the ideas you all have shared.

 

Your whole post made me smile, but this part especially.  If we can continually improve as Packs from year to year we'd have awesome Scout Packs nationwide.  Sadly, we seem to go through up and down cycles as leaders' kids age out of the program and a new cycle of parents step in.  With things like new parent orientations, the parents of the next generation of Scouts will experience it themselves, so you'll have years of potential leaders who will know the right way to do it.  Way to go! 

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I'm a bit late to the party, but I'll join in ... and offer a radical route to getting more parents engaged.  

 

Yeah, I've put together as part of a "sustainable" recruiting program lots of ideas about Recruiting Leaders as a key step in that process (see http://www.southfultonscouting.com/node/3144),I also recognize that there is no "silver bullet" and not even a full magazine of "silver bullet" ideas about how to recruit parents to lead Den Meetings will work even most of the time.  Lots of people just fall out and quit.  

 

So I've posted this radical idea on a page called "Help! We don't have Den Leaders Yet ... What do we Do?":   if you don't have enough Den Leaders, engaged and ready to go with enough helpers, leading dens of about 8 Scouts of the same age (not more than 10), please do not attempt to have Den Meetings for those Dens!!!! Not until those Dens have enough engaged leaders and helpers for Den Meetings.

 

Instead of Den Meeting ...  do Easy Fun Family Activities -- picnics, swim parties, local hikes, fishing, bike riding, field trips, movie nights on the square, bowling night, parades, mini golf -- since those can include some of the other methods of Cub Scouting, including the uniform, the ideals (hey, open and close with a recitation of the Scout Oath and/or Scout Law), and can put families together in den-sized groups to get to know each other and to do the fun activities together.

 

So go ahead and “take it easyâ€, and let the collective fun of the kids and families develop relationships organically, they can chat one on one with families, and listen to what they want to do, and maybe drop some ideas.  Like:

  • At some point, a kid will ask “do I get a Cub Scout badge for this?†
  • Even better, a parent will ask “is there a badge for my son for doing this?†
And then, you've set the hook ... we have a better chance to involve parents if we first let parents take families to fun destination events and participate even very casually in those fun events … and there is a better chance of developing a corps of den leaders and assistants over time, time that they can have even if they just do fun events for months before bearing down to the handbook requirement stuff.
 

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@@bbender, thanks for sharing this idea.  I had seen it on your website after going there to look at your plans for mixed dens and was intrigued.  Just this past week I thought of this idea again because I'm trying to help a Pack that is just forming and another that is rebuilding after nearly going extinct.  Both of those Packs are bringing in interested boys, but both of those Packs have too few boys to have strong dens across the board, and both definitely need to recruit and train den leaders.

 

While I love the new Cub Scout program, for a newly forming Pack, absorbing the Cub Scout program is like drinking from a firehouse.  There's Position Specific Training, BALOO, and other training out there, but if you are starting at zero trying to absorb everything is daunting.  Ideals, Methods, Adventures, Outings, Pack Overnighters, Blue and Gold Banquets, Pinewood Derbies... these are all parts of a strong program, but just the terminology is overwhelming.  As a Commissioner trying to help these units it's hard to know where to start.  So I thought of your idea and the fact that it stresses fun while also instilling the basics of Cub Scouting... and that seems to me a better way to introduce families to Scouting in a new Pack than expecting them to dive into the deep end and run seven adventures between now and June when the Leaders won't even have gone through training before October.  By the time the den leaders know what they are supposed to be doing, we'll be hitting the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Years) and it's hard to get an Adventure done each month with all of the days that schools are closed during that 5-6 week period.  Before you know it, you are down to January - May, and that's not a lot of time to get 5-6 Adventures done plus host a pinewood derby and Blue and Gold Banquet.

 

I still think the BSA is doing new Packs and small Packs a disservice by not having an easy way to offer the Adventure Program to them.  I really like your ideas... but I worry that if we discuss them too openly that you'll be branded a heretic by the national office.  I've seen a few cases where someone who worked on the new program lectured someone who suggested that combined den meetings could be done.  I think we all know that these situations aren't ideal, small Packs and newly formed Packs are at the extreme ends of Scouting, but they need to have a way to have a fun program incorporating as many elements of Scouting as possible, and suggesting that they try to hold Den Meetings for 1-3 boy dens is crazy.

 

The big problem is that we all know that some of these struggling Packs would be better off merging, at least temporarily, with other Packs in order to have a strong program.  Yet the BSA doesn't want to see the number of Packs drop so they will do everything they can to prevent that, but yet they don't offer any program aids to these Packs so that they can become strong Packs.  It's a vicious cycle, and I thank you for thinking outside the box.  I just wish someone at National would acknowledge this need and make something offiicial more widely available.

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Thanks for the note, Chris.  

 

When I do Cub Scout Leader Training, among the signs at the front of the room are "You Have to Do This!" and "You Can't Do That!", and I refer to them repeatedly because very dedicated and experienced leaders with great intentions will tell you one or other or both, and often ... it's wrong.  Safety, sure.  

 

In my training focus I pull some ideas that have been around a long time, not just KISMIF (Keep It Simple, Make It Fun), which sometimes get lip service and turns into KICMEH (Keep It Complicated, Make Everything Hard ... oh, that's pronounced "Kick Me!"), and with a new pack or a pack with new leaders or similarly "stretched" packs that don't have a plethora of able engaged leaders ready to "do it all" ... I think we make it too hard. 

 

So the key idea, besides KISMIF, that I emphasize is the old adage of a guy named Bill Smith (he wrote a lot in BALOO's Bugle ... google him), and one of his mantras was "If it's fun for kids ... and fun for families ... and safe ... then it's Cub Scouting!"

 

That was his alternate way of explaining KISMIF, that getting families together to do something fun as a den or pack ... is Cub Scouting!   It doesn't have to have a badge for it, doesn't need some full lesson plan or meeting plan or adventure plan ... it can just be families doing something together, going somewhere interesting, doing something fun.  

 

Your drinking from a fire hose comment is spot on.  New leaders are told "do weekly den meetings", "do monthly pack meetings", "do everything in the guide", "sell popcorn", etc., etc. ... and for a new person asked to be a den leader ... that's a lot to grasp.  Granted, it's easier now than 12 years ago (when I started as a Tiger Den Leader) and was told to look in books and Program Helps and find ideas for Den Meetings there ... you can "rip and run" these Adventure Plans and have better program ... but it is still pretty imposing for a new leader who hasn't had to try to lead 6 to 8 kids before, let alone 16 to 18 or more!

 

Loading people up with "the full playbook" is too much.  

 

Less is More.  

 

That's why I think that stripping it down to the basics is better.

 

Do the den method as easy "going places for fun", and the sole job of the Cubmaster or other Pack leader in attendance is to encourage grade level groups to do some of it together, so that kids of the same age get to know each other, and their parents get to know each other, and lead them in the Scout Oath and Law as they start the fun.  

 

If they have fun together, and want to do more next time, and want to add belt loops and pins, and rank advancement and skits and songs, and uniforms and other methods of Cub Scouting, they can do that as they get more engaged and "buy into" the program.  They can go get fully trained, go camping, do elaborate Pack Parties (I don't call them Pack Meetings in my training anymore ... it makes people think of it the wrong way), have not just Pinewood Derbies but Raingutter Regattas and Space Derbies and Bike Rodeos and Soap Box Derbies and put on a District Shooting Sports event and all of that ... all of that works better if it builds from enthusiasm.  

 

But frankly, if a Cub Scout Den (or Pack) decided "we're just going to be a group of families that go fun places and do fun things, safely, and as we do them we will allow our kids to experience this world, learn some things they ought to know, and teach them to live by the Scout Oath and Law", I think we have provided something valuable.

 

And better than if those families just left because the task was too daunting.  

 

To use a sports analogy, that stripped down approach is like taking a stranger to football and teaching them how to play.  Which is easier?  Giving them the NE Patriot's Playbook and saying "OK, you need 11 on offense and 11 on defense, backups and special teams, and learn these plays", or "here's a football, let's have a catch".

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