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fred8033

BSA patrol method is lost in the fog

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5 hours ago, Eagledad said:

I was told a few years ago that National is also seeing more drops at the Webelos I and Bear years now. I don't know.

You've heard me say this many times, kids go with their parents. If you want happy scouts, make happy parents. That is what we did. 

Your first comment reflects my experience.  If Webelos (... arrow of light scouts ...) complete and earn, they usually cross over.  They may or may not stay.  The big losses are NOT the month of the Blue and Gold crossover into a troop.  It's the previous years.  If you start with 20 lions and an "average" den, I'd bet 5 will join Scouts BSA.  The rest are lost on the Bataan death march from Lion to earn Arrow Of Light.  

We had one parent who had three sons.  He was very dedicated to his first in cub scouts.  But by his fifth year, he really questioned whether he wanted to bring the 2nd and 3rd into cubs because of the huge commitment it needed from him ... yet again.  I myself spent 15 years as a cub scout parent.  If I could choose to do it again, I'd start each as a Bear or Webelos scout and find other activities for the earlier years. 

Edited by fred8033

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5 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

Your first comment reflects my experience.  If Webelos (... arrow of light scouts ...) complete and earn, they usually cross over.  They may or may not stay.  The big losses are NOT the month of the Blue and Gold crossover into a troop.  It's the previous years.  If you start with 20 lions and an "average" den, I'd bet 5 will join Scouts BSA.  The rest are lost on the Bataan death march road from Lion to earn Arrow Of Light.  

Lots of interesting stuff here.

Before the big Tiger changes in the year 2000, the membership numbers showed just over 50% of the Webelos nott crossing over. The Tiger changes in 2000 were substantial enough that we predicted a noticeable troop membership drop in 2005/6. And that did happen.

We didn't have any predictions on the Wolf/Bear or Webelos dropouts because we didn't see any reasoning for it. I heard later from someone close to National that the wolf/bear/webelos I dropout rates had also increased. Makes sense the Web II crossover numbers were adjusted as a result. 

 We figured the Tigers would have a higher dropout rate (more time required from the parents), but I still don't understand the dropout rise in the other ages. I could only guess burnout eventually caught up to the parents faster as a result of the more demanding Tiger program.

Actually the 50% drop out rate is really higher, but the difference doesn't count in crossovers, it counts in first year scouts. Many scouts, for whatever reason, register with a troop, but never show up. That registration stays on the books for a year. Which is interesting because first year Boy Scouts has the highest dropout rate of all the ages in the BSA. I don't believe difference has much of a bump on the first year scout dropout rate, but there is not data to verify it.

Barry

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13 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Your pack is very much like my pack, support is provided. But, I don't think you realize how few pack are this organized. They are good at planning a head and they aren't very good recruiters. Most of them push the same leader to complete the 5 year tenure. They don't seek out a substitute. The leader  nobly continues, but the effort lacks the enthusiasm for a fun program. 

Some find find a substitute, but with much reluctance and they drag the scouts to the finish. We had one den of 12 Webelos join our pack where the parents finished the two Webelos years by taking turns. Not one of them was the official leader, they just took turns to get the boys through. As good as it sounds, it wasn't a fun den. They had fun in our troop.

Very well made point and I follow what you're saying here.  The question that this begs to me is what kind of pack should the BSA anticipate - the small pack struggling for leaders or the larger pack with structure.

According to my math, the ideal pack size is at least 30-48 Scouts.  That's a den of 5-8 scouts per age range.  Our disrict has 15 packs.  7 (46%) of those packs are over 30 scouts.  Those 7 packs account for 78% of the Cub Scouts in the district.  If I round a little, about half of our packs account for about 80% of our Cub Scouts.  

So, if you are the BSA who do you tailor your program to - the small packs or the large packs? 

My sense is that the BSA is focusing on a program appropriate for the 30-40 Scout pack.  One full den per age level, a Cubmaster, an ACM or two, an committee of 3-5 people - etc.  At a pack that size you don't focus 25% of your leaders on Lions - you focus 3 adults there (Lion DL, Lion Asst. DL, and one support person to help them get going).  In a pack that size you've got 9-12 front line leaders (DL/Asst. DL), a CM, 1 or 2 ACMs, and a Committee of 3-5.  That's a total of 15-20 people - 3 who are focused on Lions.   That doesn't seem so crazy.  What do you get for this?  Less stressed leaders, better adult continuty, and stronger programs.

Another option is that the BSA could just scale back to three years or four years and focus on the small 15-25 person packs.  But, I don't think that really helps us as a larger program.  You end up with simpler programs, overloaded leaders, faster turnover amongst leaders.  I'd even argue that in a smaller pack you then have to spend more emphasis on recruiting adults because you have to replace them more often.  

Put another way.  In my district larger packs account for 80% of the Scouts, but ony 50% of the units.  Wouldn't it be better for us to encoruage the smaller packs to become more like the bigger packs?

Edited by ParkMan
Forgot to add final point.

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8 hours ago, fred8033 said:

If I could choose to do it again, I'd start each as a Bear or Webelos scout and find other activities for the earlier years. 

My son was getting bored/annoyed with cubs, I knew what was coming in scouts, so we took 2 years off and came back in time for webelos. Worked out fine.

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1 hour ago, MattR said:

My son was getting bored/annoyed with cubs, I knew what was coming in scouts, so we took 2 years off and came back in time for webelos. Worked out fine.

What could your pack have done differently that woudl have piqued his interest during those years?

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11 hours ago, ParkMan said:

So, if you are the BSA who do you tailor your program to - the small packs or the large packs? ...........................................

Put another way.  In my district larger packs account for 80% of the Scouts, but ony 50% of the units.  Wouldn't it be better for us to encoruage the smaller packs to become more like the bigger packs?

Personally, I believe the program should tailored around the average parent, not pack size.

The average parent works, so family time is limited. I found the average mother doesn't enjoy spending the day outdoors cooking and tying knots while bugs are buzzing around while her sweating head in the full heat of the day, or shivering from the cold. So, when the Bear leader mom who has been planning meetings that turns into one hour of herding cats three times a month for the last three years looks at the Webelos handbook, there is some hesitation. The average father of kids this age works more than 40 hours, which leaves little time to plan activities each week for a bunch of boys with the energy of the Energizer Bunny.

Just about all Tigers can't read or write and haven't learned the discipline of sitting for 15 minutes. And yet National expects the average CM to pop out an hour of wonderful memories even though they don't have the life experience of planning a pack meeting full of songs, skits, and general fun for boys (and girls) covering the ages from thumb suckers to pre-teens.

Like troops, unit size generally shapes to the ability of the leaders. That will never change. But, National could shape a program that fits better around the daily life of the average parent. 

Personally, I have never understood the reasoning of recruiting youth who are too young to dream of adventure and lack the understanding of patience. Second grade is when boys start to see the world from reading books. Second grade is also the youngest age for youth to understand the discipline of waiting, and at least grasp the discipline of respecting another persons time.

As I said, if National wants to keep sons and daughter in the scouting program, they have to build a program for the parents of today.

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

...Personally, I have never understood the reasoning of recruiting youth who are too young to dream of adventure and lack the understanding of patience. Second grade is when boys start to see the world from reading books. Second grade is also the youngest age for youth to understand the discipline of waiting, and at least grasp the discipline of respecting another persons time...

Agreed 110%. I run a Wolf Den, and at this age they've just started to be able to handle the den meeting structure. And not all of them, but I'm seeing the shift happening. As Tigers, forget it, it was a mess. And from what I hear from our Lions parents, that's an even bigger mess. My daughter is going to skip the Lion year, no way I'm subjecting her (or myself) to that.

We're also seeing issues with bringing in kids that young and the expectations of parents. Cub Scouts sells the idea of adventure, "Build Your Adventure" and all that. It's a huge let-down for some parents to join and not see any of what they expected "adventure" to be until 2 or 3 years into it. It hurts retention.

I know the BSA sees Lions as a way to add another dues-paying year to Cub Scouts. But long-term I wonder if it's going to negatively impact retention in later years.

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12 minutes ago, FireStone said:

I know the BSA sees Lions as a way to add another dues-paying year to Cub Scouts. But long-term I wonder if it's going to negatively impact retention in later years.

History shows that it will have a negative effect.

I can't take greed out of National, but I believe there are ways to give them what they want and still build a manageable program. Create a program completely separate and independent of the other BSA program designed specifically for the youth of that maturity. No reference at all to the Pack. Then, National could recruit any toddler up to age 6. The structure would be more of a once or twice a month go and see. It could have some arts and crafts I guess, but it needs to be specific for parents looking for opportunities to spend enjoyable time with their toddlers. The program needs to be structure giving parents choices that fit their personal time. We could call this completely separate independent program, ummm, Tigers?

I think it will work because this is what we did with our Tiger program and our Tiger Drop out rate went from 50% to 5%. 

Barry

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15 hours ago, ParkMan said:

What could your pack have done differently that woudl have piqued his interest during those years?

He was tired of other kids that were essentially out of control. He had to sit and wait while some parent tried to take care of their son. The pinewood derby was also a let down. I did the power tools and let him do everything else. He really enjoyed it, until his car got trounced by the cars made by the parents. We went camping as a family so anything the pack could have done for camping, but didn't do, probably wouldn't have been as much fun. I let him climb trees. He was never that interested in the crafts. I don't think the advancement program helped much either.

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On 5/29/2019 at 9:35 PM, ParkMan said:

According to my math, the ideal pack size is at least 30-48 Scouts. 

30-48 was good when the packs had Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Webelos II  (8 to 12 per rank, four ranks ).  A pack of 30-48 spread over six ranks (adding Lions and Tigers) years has too many holes  (5 to 8 cubs per rank).  That makes specific ranks very thin on membership.  That will promote higher drop out rates and probably holes at at specific ranks or soon-to-be holes at those ranks.

I'd argue with the addition of Lion and Tiger (6 school grades), straight math says a healthy pack is now 48 to 76 cubs (8 to 12 per rank, six years).    

I actually believe you also need to factor in attrition rates.  If you have 10% or 20% attrition over four years ... and you want to cross over six scouts each year ... and now you have a six year program ... and now you start with Lion dens ... then to get the same cross-over numbers, you need to start with higher initial numbers. 

I'd argue a new a healthy pack is 60 to 85 cubs.  

Edited by fred8033
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6 hours ago, MattR said:

He was tired of other kids that were essentially out of control. He had to sit and wait while some parent tried to take care of their son. The pinewood derby was also a let down. I did the power tools and let him do everything else. He really enjoyed it, until his car got trounced by the cars made by the parents. We went camping as a family so anything the pack could have done for camping, but didn't do, probably wouldn't have been as much fun. I let him climb trees. He was never that interested in the crafts. I don't think the advancement program helped much either.

So back when I was Cubmaster, I saw the same at PWD, and the next year we had a separate Derby for the adults.  I was not a 100% cure.  It helped and resulted in more happy Cubs.   

We let Cubs move dens if they were unhappy where they were.  Every den had an active Den Chief.  No Den Leader got overwhelmed, but some wondered why the kids were voting with their feet.

Edited by TAHAWK

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1 hour ago, fred8033 said:

30-48 was good when the packs had Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Webelos II  (8 to 12 per rank, four ranks ).  A pack of 30-48 spread over six ranks (adding Lions and Tigers) years has too many holes  (5 to 8 cubs per rank).  That makes specific ranks very thin on membership.  That will promote higher drop out rates and probably holes at at specific ranks or soon-to-be holes at those ranks.

I'd argue with the addition of Lion and Tiger (6 school grades), straight math says a healthy pack is now 48 to 76 cubs (8 to 12 per rank, six years).    

I actually believe you also need to factor in attrition rates.  If you have 10% or 20% attrition over four years ... and you want to cross over six scouts each year ... and now you have a six year program ... and now you start with Lion dens ... then to get the same cross-over numbers, you need to start with higher initial numbers. 

I'd argue a new a healthy pack is 60 to 85 cubs.  

That seems a very reaonsable analysis to me. 

An 80-85% retention rate seems pretty normal.  A pack would see on average 1-2 scouts leave each year per den of 8 (or so) scouts.  Up through Bears we'd generally replace those Scouts through recruiting.  Dens in the wolf year tended to get bigger.  Dens in the bear year were stable in size.  The Webelos dens tended to drop by 1 or 2.  Typically Scouts didn't start as Webelos but seemed to wait another year and start as Boy Scouts.  Again, we saw a similar 80-85% continue on to Boy Scouts.

Two thoughts:

  1. 60-85 cubs seems like a lot, but it really isn't.  I found the best way to get there is to focus on adding one full den each year.  Finding 8-10 new Lions or Tigers isn't really that hard.  If you can recruit a fell den of Lions or Tigers, the rest will sort itself out.
  2. You need a healthy team to run a pack of 60-85.  Fortuantley with that many scouts it's not that hard to find volunteers.  Just keep your eyes and ears open.  Create plenty of opportunities for parents to help out and get used to being around Scouting.  My advice - find a CC and let them focus on nothing more than building the volunteer team. 
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6 hours ago, MattR said:

He was tired of other kids that were essentially out of control. He had to sit and wait while some parent tried to take care of their son. The pinewood derby was also a let down. I did the power tools and let him do everything else. He really enjoyed it, until his car got trounced by the cars made by the parents. We went camping as a family so anything the pack could have done for camping, but didn't do, probably wouldn't have been as much fun. I let him climb trees. He was never that interested in the crafts. I don't think the advancement program helped much either.

Thanks - this helps to understand.  

I fully understand his perspective here.  I'd like to think that were I a leader in that pack, I'd be looking for activities that transcend some of this.  

Pinewood Derby - make it less about the competition and more about building a car

Camping - the camping program has to be more than family camping with Scouts.  We'd attend Camporees, had a freezing weather camping trip once, would sleep on a Battleship, sleep at the acquarium, would hold Webelos camping events focused on sklls development (called "Camping Like a Boy Scout"), would hold fishing weekends, would attend shooting events, etc.

Crafts - Younger kids liked it, but it was never a big part of our program.

We seemed to spend time pushing the edge - looking for new ideas, things to try.  If stuff got stale, we tried something else.  I guess that's my point on this.  It seems all to easy in Scouting to just say "that's too hard" or "it's too much work" or "we're too overloaded".  But, the real fun in Cub Scouting is doing cool stuff with your kids.  Folks gotta find a way to make that happen.

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