Jump to content

Advice Needed for Cub Scout program


Recommended Posts

Our Pack is struggling. Number-wise we are OK but the program we offer is not great. I do think if the Cub Scout program were delivered as designed it would be a great thing for the kids. I have taken basically every Cub Scout training class on my.scouting.com. The problem isn’t about knowing what should be happening, but instead about how to make it happen. My goal here isn’t to bash any part of the program, but to get help in dealing with these issues. Here are some specific concerns:

 

1. Not enough adult help. I’m sure this has been an ongoing concern for the past 30 years, at least. The my.scouting.com videos are frustrating, in a sense, because the highly-staged photos show about a 1:1 ratio between adults and Cub Scouts, and the adults are fully uniformed and highly engaged. Our pack looks nothing like that. We have about a 10:1 ratio between scouts and highly engaged adults, and maybe half as many adults again who are kind of phoning-it-in. I once calculated a realistic estimate of how much adult time would be required to deliver the program per the training videos. I came up with 66 hours per week. To try to monetize that somehow, if we use the average hourly wage for a substitute elementary school teacher ($14/hour) that comes out to $36,000 per year in volunteer labor over a 9-month program. About $700 in effort per kid per year. How is one supposed to commandeer that level of in-kind support for other people’s kids?

 

2. No venue. Our chartered organization signs the documents when required but that’s it. We are on our own to find meeting locations. At someone’s house, a park, etc. That kind of works for dens but it is really a drag as a pack. The well-dressed, highly structured pack meetings shown in the training videos really aren’t possible when you are meeting at a playground. How do other packs in a similar situation deal with this?
 

3. No council. Our council has been effectively MIA since before COVID, except for emails to recruit and to sell popcorn. I’m not sure there is any advice to give here (don’t tell me to talk to the District Executive, we don’t have one), but I’m willing to listen if there is any.
 

4. Cost. The absolute cost of cub scouting is not that high, but honestly families don’t get that much benefit back. I think Cub Scout families are being exploited by BSA. Somewhat related to #3, I think Council and National are really about BSA (I’m not even sure that’s the right term, I mean the older kids formerly known as Boy Scouts). But most of the money to support the BSA adventure bases, BSA summer camp facilities, and paid BSA support staff comes from Cub Scout dues. Between national and council dues our families pay over $150 per year per scout.  That’s money that goes out and doesn’t impact our program in any visible way. On top of that we need another $200 per scout to actually execute a program. If you buy a new uniform and handbook every year that is another $200 per scout. And if you want to participate in a field trip that is pay-as-you-go, about another $140 for 1 scout + 1 parent. I realize back-in-the-day folks have some image of scout costs being $5 per year or something like that. It is closer to $700 per year now.  Yes, we could do more fundraising but that is really just shifting the cost to #1. As I said $700 is not an unrealistic family expense, at least in my area, but it is big enough that parents are essentially expecting a full-fledged weekly drop off program like they get from soccer or karate. We don’t offer that though. Any thoughts on how to reconcile this for parents would be appreciated.  
 

5. Too wide an age range. My understanding of the premise of BSA is that it is boys-helping-boys to succeed, with some light input from adult mentors to teach skills and keep things safe. I can’t see at all how to deliver that to our Cub Scouts. Maybe for Webelos, if it were something like Webelos 2 teach the Webelos 1. In reality, Lions and Tigers is just a playdate. Wolf and Bear just repeat the Lion and Tiger activities at slightly more complicated level. I realize the idea that you should catch them at a younger and younger age before families discover other activities. And in a sense there’s not anything wrong with just offering structured playdates for the K-3 kids.  But in the sense of really offering what the BSA (or whatever we should call it) claims to be offering I’m thinking our pack should eliminate Lion through Bear and just have Webelos 1 and 2. There’s nothing in the first 4 years of the program that a Webelos 1 couldn’t learn in a couple weeks. What do you think?
 

6. Outdoor vs. indoor. What is the right mix here? If you really look at all of the beltoops for Cub Scouts, 90% are indoor arts-and-crafts type things. I think 100 years ago the program was supposed to be focused on outdoor activities. Our pack kind of struggles to reconcile that.  
 

7. Religion. I’m sure this varies dramatically from community to community. I’ve not done a survey, but I think only a handful of families in our pack are bible-thumpers, maybe another handful are religious-when-convenient. The rest essentially are not.  But we are stuck in a weird place where the BSA materials have a religious component, though at the same time they weasel their way out of it by making the definition of religion very broad. Rather than force most of the Cub scouts to go through the motions by saying “I’m reverent toward trees and plants and stuff”, which is basically the same thing as lying, I’m wondering if we should completely drop all the religious implications. We would keep the scout oath and law as it is for historical continuity and respect, but just pencil whip scoutbook for the rest. If a family very much wants religion in cub scouts they can go to a different pack. In reality I think we will gain more families than we will lose. I don’t see any way in which the rest of the program is necessarily impacted by your religious beliefs. Of course people can bring their personal baggage into anything, like to appreciate the outdoors you need to thank God for the gift, but in the society where I live it just ends up being weird and somewhat alienating. How do others handle it?

 

 I will appreciate any feedback on any of these points.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

For adult help, it's going to be like that.  We're a military community and get excuses all the time.  Even when I pointed out that I am also military and yet still find a way to be the Cubmaster, and now CC from 600 miles away, people still balked.  I think part of the solution is explaining that if everyone pitches in in some way, then the work load is spread out, there are back ups in place, and the program doesn't drop if someone can't make it.  If you think BSA is going to spend money showing you less than the ideal conditions, take a look at the photos on a McDonald's menu.  Ideally, sure, you'd have parents who actually care about their kids and want to spend time with them. 

The lack of facilities is frustrating.  We're lucky enough to have a building to borrow.  Previously though, the Pack meetings were held in public places as a sort of recruiting tool.  I wasn't part of the pack then, but it sounds like an interesting idea, if a safe environment can be located.  

If anything, I've found councils to be hit and miss.  Not going to say anything further.

Cost - that's a toughy.  We've advised our parents to not buy the books each year.  Your pack can save them a bit more money by having a Pack neckerchief that would see them through the entire program, rather than buying a new one every year.  Our council lets us use the council camp for free weekend trips.  That saves us a lot of money.  If the costs to operate the program are too much, I would consider revising it.  Our dues cover the six required loops/pins, rank badge, PWD car, a small bit for decorations for the PWD and B&G, the unit charter fee, and the adult leader fees.  We do potluck for the B&G and Christmas party.  We don't control the national and council fees, but the council fees could be reduced if more people participate in the fundraising.  I realize that we used to wear the blue uniform from Wolf to AOL, but I think the idea is that there is a transition to Scouts BSA after AOL and the new uniform supports that goal.  Wroks out well if your kid gets a growth spurt in 4th grade.  My Bear is starting to look like Erkle in the pants, but he's skinny, so the blue shirt still fits.  The program from the 80s was probably cheaper with the beads and arrowheads, but BSA changed it for some reason.  

Age-range.  You misunderstand the difference between Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA.  Scouts BSA is the program for older youth, formerly known as Boy Scouts.  That is a youth lead, adult guided program.  Cub Scouts is adult lead and guided.  I would not expect a Webelos Scout to be capable of executing the Wolf program anymore than I'd expect a 12 y/o Tenderfoot to serve as the leader in a troop.  The goal is progressive learning and reinforcement of concepts.  There's little in the first 3 years of school that a 4th grader couldn't pick up in a couple of months, but we don't use that approach.  I think that it takes time to develop skills in working with peers and the benefit of that repetition is demonstrated well.  

I think your math if off.  I don't see a single requirement that has to be done indoors and I see a lot that have to be done outdoors.  If you are doing advancement mostly indoors, you have a leader problem.  Put together a support packet that gives the DLs ideas for completing requirements outdoors.  

As far as duty to God, I don't know what to tell you.  People who believe that they are the supreme being probably are incompatible with Scouting.  Baden Powell wrote very much on the topic.  "A Scout is reverent" has a completely different mean from "A Scout goes to church".  Not every organization has to abandon its principles to make everyone comfortable.  Perhaps those who currently see themselves as supreme will come to understand the philosophy of Baden Powell and the fundamentals of the movement.  

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, CubHerder said:

Our Pack is struggling. Number-wise we are OK but the program we offer is not great. I do think if the Cub Scout program were delivered as designed it would be a great thing for the kids. I have taken basically every Cub Scout training class on my.scouting.com. The problem isn’t about knowing what should be happening, but instead about how to make it happen. My goal here isn’t to bash any part of the program, but to get help in dealing with these issues. Here are some specific concerns:

 

1. Not enough adult help. I’m sure this has been an ongoing concern for the past 30 years, at least. The my.scouting.com videos are frustrating, in a sense, because the highly-staged photos show about a 1:1 ratio between adults and Cub Scouts, and the adults are fully uniformed and highly engaged. Our pack looks nothing like that. We have about a 10:1 ratio between scouts and highly engaged adults, and maybe half as many adults again who are kind of phoning-it-in. I once calculated a realistic estimate of how much adult time would be required to deliver the program per the training videos. I came up with 66 hours per week. To try to monetize that somehow, if we use the average hourly wage for a substitute elementary school teacher ($14/hour) that comes out to $36,000 per year in volunteer labor over a 9-month program. About $700 in effort per kid per year. How is one supposed to commandeer that level of in-kind support for other people’s kids?

Do you have a Cubmaster and Den Leaders for each Den?  As well as enough leaders to make sure than 2 Deep Leadership is taken care of?  Den Meeting planning...  Visit this website... there are workbooks for each adventure that will help your Den Leaders plan meetings a bit better.  http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/intro.asp  There is also tons of other info there on Pack Meeting ideas. games. camping, etc.

 

 

2. No venue. Our chartered organization signs the documents when required but that’s it. We are on our own to find meeting locations. At someone’s house, a park, etc. That kind of works for dens but it is really a drag as a pack. The well-dressed, highly structured pack meetings shown in the training videos really aren’t possible when you are meeting at a playground. How do other packs in a similar situation deal with this?

We are fortunate to have our own meeting facility outside of our CO, so we dont have to worry about other organizations schedules.  That being said. our Pack Meetings were ALWAYS outside.  Usually on a Sunday afternoon about 3:00 or 4:00.  Don't worry about what they show in the videos.  You need to make your situation work.  Remember marketing always shows the most desirable outcome with unlimited resources.  Its not always possible to live up to the marketing.
 

3. No council. Our council has been effectively MIA since before COVID, except for emails to recruit and to sell popcorn. I’m not sure there is any advice to give here (don’t tell me to talk to the District Executive, we don’t have one), but I’m willing to listen if there is any.

Can't help with no support for your Council.  We are in one of the top Councils in country and I tend to exhaust all other avenues before trying to find help there.  This forum will be a much better resource. 
 

4. Cost. The absolute cost of cub scouting is not that high, but honestly families don’t get that much benefit back. I think Cub Scout families are being exploited by BSA. Somewhat related to #3, I think Council and National are really about BSA (I’m not even sure that’s the right term, I mean the older kids formerly known as Boy Scouts). But most of the money to support the BSA adventure bases, BSA summer camp facilities, and paid BSA support staff comes from Cub Scout dues. Between national and council dues our families pay over $150 per year per scout.  That’s money that goes out and doesn’t impact our program in any visible way. On top of that we need another $200 per scout to actually execute a program. If you buy a new uniform and handbook every year that is another $200 per scout. And if you want to participate in a field trip that is pay-as-you-go, about another $140 for 1 scout + 1 parent. I realize back-in-the-day folks have some image of scout costs being $5 per year or something like that. It is closer to $700 per year now.  Yes, we could do more fundraising but that is really just shifting the cost to #1. As I said $700 is not an unrealistic family expense, at least in my area, but it is big enough that parents are essentially expecting a full-fledged weekly drop off program like they get from soccer or karate. We don’t offer that though. Any thoughts on how to reconcile this for parents would be appreciated.  
 

National will tell you your fees go to support program development. training, and insurance.  A lot of that is accurate.  I am unsure how you "know" how those Cub Scout fees are just going to support the Scouts BSA program.  Our Council camps do have Scouts BSA summer camp, but they also serve as location for Cub and Webleos Resident Camp in the summer.  As well as numerous opportunities for Cubs throughout the year.  I have been a Den Leader, Cubmaster, Committee Chair in the Pack and I am currently a CC for two Scout BSA Troops.  I can tell you, all the stuff that you are saying you have to buy.... you dont have to buy. :)  Look for uniforms on ebay, thrift shops, Facebook uniform groups, etc.  Buying a brand new uniform every year is not at necessary.  Buying a brand new uniform ever is a choice.  There are many many many options out there to buy a perfectly fine uniform for $10.  Your Pack committee might consider talking about the handbooks...   Maybe your DLs need a book and supplement from the website I noted above.  Email your parents copies of the adventure worksheet perhaps.  My point is, there are LOTS of ways to make Scouting more affordable without impacting the program itself.

5. Too wide an age range. My understanding of the premise of BSA is that it is boys-helping-boys to succeed, with some light input from adult mentors to teach skills and keep things safe. I can’t see at all how to deliver that to our Cub Scouts. Maybe for Webelos, if it were something like Webelos 2 teach the Webelos 1. In reality, Lions and Tigers is just a playdate. Wolf and Bear just repeat the Lion and Tiger activities at slightly more complicated level. I realize the idea that you should catch them at a younger and younger age before families discover other activities. And in a sense there’s not anything wrong with just offering structured playdates for the K-3 kids.  But in the sense of really offering what the BSA (or whatever we should call it) claims to be offering I’m thinking our pack should eliminate Lion through Bear and just have Webelos 1 and 2. There’s nothing in the first 4 years of the program that a Webelos 1 couldn’t learn in a couple weeks. What do you think?

We didn't have Lions when I started, but I was a Tiger DL all the way through with my AOL Den.  Its not all just a play date.  The adventures are age appropriate and are good building steps for the skills needed later on.  I think elimated Wolf and Bear dens is crazy talk. :)
 

6. Outdoor vs. indoor. What is the right mix here? If you really look at all of the beltoops for Cub Scouts, 90% are indoor arts-and-crafts type things. I think 100 years ago the program was supposed to be focused on outdoor activities. Our pack kind of struggles to reconcile that.  

If the weather is nice.  Meet outside.  I rarely did the arts and crafts stuff.  Its about understanding and knowledge of Scout skills to make the Cub Adventures fun and a learning experience.  

 

29 minutes ago, CubHerder said:

7. Religion. I’m sure this varies dramatically from community to community. I’ve not done a survey, but I think only a handful of families in our pack are bible-thumpers, maybe another handful are religious-when-convenient. The rest essentially are not.  But we are stuck in a weird place where the BSA materials have a religious component, though at the same time they weasel their way out of it by making the definition of religion very broad. Rather than force most of the Cub scouts to go through the motions by saying “I’m reverent toward trees and plants and stuff”, which is basically the same thing as lying, I’m wondering if we should completely drop all the religious implications. We would keep the scout oath and law as it is for historical continuity and respect, but just pencil whip scoutbook for the rest. If a family very much wants religion in cub scouts they can go to a different pack. In reality I think we will gain more families than we will lose. I don’t see any way in which the rest of the program is necessarily impacted by your religious beliefs. Of course people can bring their personal baggage into anything, like to appreciate the outdoors you need to thank God for the gift, but in the society where I live it just ends up being weird and somewhat alienating. How do others handle it?

Duty to God is about what each family sees as appropriate for the,  It is not the job of the Unit to suggest or force any particular religious view or faith on anyone.  Families should be encourage to work with thier Scout on Duty to God adventures.  

 

 I will appreciate any feedback on any of these points.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, that's quite a load for you to bear. Thank you for doing your best.

On the subject of religion: When in doubt, put control of sensitive subjects back in the hands of the parents.

Not every requirement needs to be completed at an official Scout function. It's OK to give Cubs and their parents a little homework every month. You wouldn't want it to become a chore, but 20 minutes of discussion between monthly Den meetings isn't unreasonable.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/24/2022 at 5:15 AM, BetterWithCheddar said:

On the subject of religion: When in doubt, put control of sensitive subjects back in the hands of the parents.

Agreed. Our pack just says we are sponsored by the school and all of the duty to god adventures are done as a family. We say just either sign it in the book, on Scoutbook, or just let us know it is done. We have never had an issue with families baulking. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

@CubHerder, I understand your pain. This is why I said cubs burns out parents.

A quick response to each of your points:

1) Volunterrs. Yes, that is the reality. It used to be 4:1 but I don't doubt 10:1 now. The simple answer is make the program less complicated. More on that below.

2) facility. That hurts. We used to rent the school gym once a month for pack meetings and dens were on their own..

3) Council. Yes  and that likely won't change. Roundtables might be more helpful.

4) Cost. This is related to 1) in that you need to focus on what's important.

5) Ages. This is the one easy one. @Armymutt is correct, this is not a concern for cubs.

6) Indoors/outdoors. Don't focus on belt loops and pins. The biggest mistake I made was doing that. Do what's fun for the scouts. Getting them comfortable with being outside while having fun is the best preparation for scouts.

7) Religion. Given your wide mix, leave that to the individual parents. Focus on the scout law when the scouts don't act scout like.

So, the big issues are volunteers, cost and program. Or rather, being overwhelmed by expectations. How I would handle this is to think about the core goals of the program and eliminate those things that are preventing those from happening. Scouts is fun with a purpose. Don't confuse that with belt loops and uniforms.  A month of outdoor games (hide and seek, kick the can, ghost in the grave yard, ...) will be easier for you to set up and be more fun for the scouts than some belt loop about doing chores. If the parents are concerned with cost then replace the uniform with a neckerchief and a blue t-shirt that says "I'm a cub scout" and will last until they outgrow it.

About the program described in the cubscout handbooks, I'm not saying ignore it. It can be the basis of a great program for your scouts, especially if you have lots of parents with lots of time to donate. But you don't have that. So use the handbooks as a source of inspiration for activities you can do. Time and money spent at the scout store on pins and belt loops is not time and money organizing a fun activity at a park. Which of these is going to give you more opportunity to instill the scout law into these cubs and prepare them for a troop? Completing Wolf and Bear is not necessary. If you're not buying patches nobody will know. At the B&G you just say "you're all Bears (or webelos) now! Hooray!"

My son is now 30. He does not remember any of the pins we did. He barely remembers the pinewood derby (talk about a huge time sink for the parents). He does remember the space derby because that was incredibly fun. He remembers the B&G when the flaming arrow missed the bullseye and lit the curtain on fire. He remembers shooting BB guns and the few campouts we did. He had a good basis for understanding the scout law.

Link to post
Share on other sites

1) Volunteers.  ... Agree with earlier.  Simplify as much as possible.   Look for free community events and/or resources.  If your city is having a big vehicle day when your city shows off it's big stuff, somehow find a way to get the whole pack to meetup there.  Maybe grab an area off to the side for a rally point.  Find a city park and have a pack game day.

2) Facility ... Us too.  We rented a school space.  It was cheap.  Dens met at their own choice.  

3) Council ... Councils don't do anything for individual packs.  Period.  Don't expect different.

4) Cost ... Agree with earlier.  Reduce the cost.  Don't need to buy books until the troop years.  Maybe webelos.  Uniform?  It gets clumsy.  Some don't want to spend.  Some expect everyone uniformed.  It's a really screwed up expectation.  ... but you are right, pack scouts reap huge revenue for BSA where troop scouts is less but the big focus.  

5) Ages. ... "This is the one easy one. @Armymutt is correct" ... but I also agree with your assertion.  There is zero learning K-3 that is useful later.  Even 4th and 5th grades are an excuse to start younger boys that want to join their older brother's troops.  IMHO, youth could join a troop never having been in a pack and no one would notice a difference after the first week. 

6) Indoors/outdoors. ..."Do what's fun for the scouts. Getting them comfortable being outside while having fun is the best preparation for scouts." ... love that answer. 

7) Religion.   Yep.  Focus on scout law.  Leave religion for the families. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, fred8033 said:

3) Council ... Councils don't do anything for individual packs.  Period.  Don't expect different.

I guess it is rare, but our council made night specific flyers, gave us yard signs, contacted 3 schools to arrange talks, and did the 3 talks. The district had one membership committee member attend our round up nights to help. They then drove our paper apps to the office and helped us fill out forms for those that need financial assistance. About 5 Cubs received financial assistance from the council. 
 

It is a good idea not to expect much, but some councils help a lot. 

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
43 minutes ago, mrjohns2 said:

I guess it is rare, but our council made night specific flyers, gave us yard signs, contacted 3 schools to arrange talks, and did the 3 talks. The district had one membership committee member attend our round up nights to help. They then drove our paper apps to the office and helped us fill out forms for those that need financial assistance. About 5 Cubs received financial assistance from the council. 
 

It is a good idea not to expect much, but some councils help a lot. 

You are right.  That's what I've seen too.  Council invests to help recruit.  I was thinking from running the pack.  Council did little to help run a pack.

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, mrjohns2 said:

I guess it is rare, but our council made night specific flyers, gave us yard signs, contacted 3 schools to arrange talks, and did the 3 talks. The district had one membership committee member attend our round up nights to help. They then drove our paper apps to the office and helped us fill out forms for those that need financial assistance. About 5 Cubs received financial assistance from the council. 
 

It is a good idea not to expect much, but some councils help a lot. 

Ah the good old days.

In my neck of the woods that has not been happening in over 10 years. We are not allowed in the schools., and council has been no help trying to get into the schools. Last time recruiting was the topic of RT, the pro was talking about how they would sell us recruiting materials so we could do our own recruiting. No mention of the fact that we cannot even get into the schools.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...