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Cub Scouting Hurting Boy Scouting?

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I'm starting to see a weak Webelos program as the culprit for a lot of later cub loss and early boy scout loss in the retention department. I don't think anyone is directly to blame, it's just a misunderstanding of both the leaders and parents of how the program should work. Webelos get bored with the cub stuff and either drop out or hang on to get their AOL and cross over. Those who hold on, are shocked by all the responsibility of Boy Scouts and drop out.


Webelos isn't just another cub rank. It's a bridging period where the adults begin stepping back and turning the reigns over to the boys, but a lot of webelos dens are run exactly like a wolf or bear den. One thing we've started doing is assigning webelos parents "jobs" during meetings so they aren't still hovering over the boys. It's hard for the parents to let go and let the boys do it after three years of us pushing them to get involved! We also started fully implementing the webelos version of the patrol method so the boys get used to doing for themselves and working as a team instead of depending on the adults to plan and do everything.


We have more boys crossing over and more staying in boy scouts since we started following the webelos program as it's meant to be.


I also thinks that both cub and boy scouts do themselves a disservice by only feeding one troop or depending on one pack as a feeder. Not every boy and troop is going to be a good fit. I think most packs benefits from forging a relationship with at at least two troops, and every troop should foster relations with at least two packs. (except perhaps those in closed communities, such as a church with a both a cub and scout unit made up from teh membership)

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I'd blame both...



I've been a very active cub leader for two years now and from what I can tell, the Cub Scout struggles with figuring out what it wants to be.


Some in our pack appear to view cub scouts as controlled play. In this world, cubs are playing games, acting silly, running around in the woods on campouts while the leaders and a few volunteers do all the work. Cub campouts end up being a place where parents & scouts go in the woods, pitch a tent, and just hang out for the weekend.


Others in the pack want it to be a strong preparation program for boy scouts. In this model, scouts are working on developing skills & pushing their boundaries. There is plenty of time for play, but play isn't the primary goal.


In the end though, the annual program seems to end up being a race to a rank badge at the Blue & Gold. Then, for the spring the pack gets less active - because once you've earned your rank, you're done.


Now, I don't really fault the leaders - either den or pack. I think it's really the lack of training. Send a new den leader to a few hours of training and they're ready to run a den?


I'd like to see a more developed basic leader program. Training shouldn't be just online intro, leader specific training, BALOO, and then OWLS a few years later. I think you need something in the middle there. A weekend new leader training - perhaps taken at the start of the wolf year. In this course, the training would focus much more on specifics.


My daughter is in girl scouts. From the earliest time, there is a program for camping. Girls are helping in camp. Parents are encouraged to stay home. I watched a friend who is a new girl scout leader come back from her camping training (spread over two weekends) come back with ideas about how to take a bunch of second graders camping and get them engaged. They have jobs charts and responsibilities.


My son's den mates end up hanging out while 6 adults cook for the pack of 30 boys. In the pack, when you talk about a pack campout, the question is "how do I get parents to help cook" instead of "how do I teach the youth to cook on their own". Somehow we wait until Webelos to expect that a boy can do much of anything on a campout.


In short, my criticism of the cub scout program is that we just don't know what it is. Some think it's light weight camping where the goal is just to get kids out doors. Other think it's not even the camping that's important. Other's have different ideas. As earlier post mentioned that cub leaders fight a lot more - I think it's true and because we're not really sure what a pack is supposed to be. That makes it difficult for leaders to have a solid program as they are figuring it out as they go. In the end, some burn out because they try to hard doing the wrong things or do the "right" things with little help.


Boy Scouts:

I don't see why any boy scout campout should be anything like the most challenging Webelos campout. My first Boy Scout campout, I strapped on a back pack and hiked 5 miles and then set up camp. When I set up camp, I pitched my own tent. Then, we built our own fire, prepared our own meals, cleaned our own dishes. All the SM did was point us in the right direction and tell us where we'd stop for the night.


My second boy scout campout, it rained the entire time. So this time, I learned to hike in the rain, pitch a tent in the rain, cook food in the rain, etc... In Webelos, you're not hiking, so just run under the shelter until the rain stopped.


Sure, maybe that level of engagement rules of 50% of the troops and Scoutmasters, but so what? Why don't we set lofty goals for our scouting program? Then, maybe those 50% will try harder, or will get more training, or perhaps, just perhaps, a whole crop of people who thinks Scouting is boring will become engaged and we'll have even better Scoutmasters.


So, to sum up, I think they are both to blame. Cubs doesn't really set the right expectation nor does it prepare boys for boy scouts. Boy Scouts just needs to have higher goals that will challenge boys.

(This message has been edited by parkman)

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Baden P


I think you are correct; I am too close too things and inexperienced to see the situation clearly.


At the cub scout campouts I used to get my sons to cook some of their own meals, set up their tents, etc. I was one of the only parents doing so.


The boys are pretty excited the first year the T-1 program keeps them busy. Then they have to sit around a couple years until they are old enough to do the High Adventure. Then they get bored and leave. The first year we do a lot of interesting trips --canoeing, climbing, hiking, snorkeling, but it still car/base camping.


That said we try to travel light and are trying to switch over to a more backpack based approach. We had some success moving toward a boy led unit but the system collapsed partially due to our size. We are now planning to switch to a mixed age Patrols and more Patrol based camping.


Our experienced "outdoor guys" we had relied on have aged out, got sick, or had life get in the way. I think our Troop will need to make sure that leaders, especially less experienced ones such as myself, get in shape and get the skills they need.

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Upon further review


I love the Venturing Program, especially outdoor Venturing, but one thing I learned early on was that High Adventure = High Cost.


If you go indoor climbing a couple times a month to get experince and then buy outdoor climbing gear it adds up real fast. You can get an outfitter to go white water rafting or kayaking for a sum, or buy the equipment yourself and that ain't cheap neither. Back packing is not inexpensive either, to get a good tent you wont be buying it at Wal Mart, then there is the frame, etc


Could it be that high adventure costs are impacting the program as well?


OK, the leader gets the proper equipment, what about the rest of the troop?

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Believe it or not all the equipment does not have to cost so much, our crew has gotten much of theirs from places like Second Hand Sports stores, garage sales, rummage sales etc. I myself got an elite $500+ REI backpacking outfit, pack, frame, and ultra light sleeping bag in almost brand new condition for $20 at a church rummage sale and it fits like it was custom made just for me. The crew got a trailer with eight kayaks from a state park sale for $200, all they needed was a little touchup paint. For advanced mountain climbing and rapelling we hire an expert consultant who brings a truckload of equipment for the crew. And the list goes on and on. For events we do only once in a great while we rent the needed equipment.


Our crew fundraises to go to either the Sea Base or its counterpart to do large ship sailing for a week every 2-3 years, this involves a caravan drive across country, camping each night and is the most expensive thing the crew does. Most of our activities are more or less local and that helps keep costs down. So it can be done relatively inexpensively if you keep your eyes and ears open for bargains. High Adventure does not have to equal big bucks or massive expeditions. Many of our activities are done at local parks or lakes or rivers with a minimum of expense.


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Believe whatever the heck you want but you are dead wrong. The drop in numbers on Boy Scouts only does ring true, whether you agree or not is irrelevant.


Watered down troop programs are the main cause for individual boy scouts leaving troops, as well as undertrained SM's and ASM's, all of which results in a dull and boring scouting experience for the boys. It is not an image issue or lack of advertising, although they are secondary factors. Boy Scouts has always had an image problem, even when I was a boy scout other kids made fun of the uniform, calling us good deed daily boys, etc, much like today. So Barry I really don't know what world you are living in but it seems way out of whack with the reality of today.


I too love the scouting program and want to see it prosper not continue to shrink, unfortunately National seems more concerned with boosting numbers and money with new lackluster programs that have less and less to do with the foundation that made scouting the best and most unique youth organization in the country, and the dropping numbers prove it.(This message has been edited by BadenP)

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Once again thanks for everyones input. I would like to remind that I am fairly new to the Scouting scene. One thing that has been mentioned I really like/ find very informative, is the WEBELOS program. The pack my boys were in does 2 campouts a year, one Cave camping, and summer camp. That means car camping with the adults doing the work. The just stepping in CM, who was ACM last year, did much in trying to involve the older boys in more scout like activities during the outings. However there was no seperate WEBELOS campouts. My boys ended up doing several campouts with the Troop they are now in to get their requirements. I am going to try to get the new WEB 2 group to do some actual camping outside the Pack Campouts this next year.


As I also said, the current SM wants to step down in a year, wanting me to be his replacement. This is weighing heavily on my mind, and I am trying to get all the training I can under my belt so I can make a better decision(Although I beleive the decision will be made for me, there is nobody else even remotely interested in doing more for the Troop). I am hoping that maybe by next year there will be newer blood coming in and someone better qualified. Who knows, maybe someone in the CO might be interested to take the position for a year or two. That was the main reason for me starting this discussion.


I have all online training done, am registered for IOLS and Woodbadge this Fall, and I have BALLOO (I know it isn't required for BS). Is there anything else I need, not just for required training but also just info in general that would help. I love to read and have read several Scout related books and Trainig guides for Troops, Packs, and Committees. Any suggestions on books would also be appreciated.


The Troop we are in does one campout a month minimum, this includes Camporee. They only do a backpack trip when someone needs it for Rank. We do a semi-car camping, they seem to like it. However, another adult in the troop would like to see at least a minimum of one backpacking trip a year. Since the boys make up the calander, I realize that they will have to want this on the calander to make it a possibility. However, If I do take the SM position, I will make it a point to encourage more backpacking, and less car camping.


Another point of interest to me is Order Of The Arrow. The Troop neither incourages nor discourages participation in OA. After doing research on OA I now understand what it is and what they are doing. There are two reason the Troop doesn't really participate in OA:

1: Small Group of 8 boys

2: Even if offered now, the current older boys wouldn't care for it anyways

The adult mentioned earlier on backpacking was in OA as a Boy Scout and the ACM now CM mentioned earlier was in OA also. Both are very intersted in their child participating in OA and I am hoping that the CM will come my way in 2 years. I feel I need to help increase the numbers of the troop to be able to sustain the OA participation. I am already trying to get other boys in the Troop(right now my boys are looking for friends to join).


I know this is a lot to digest, and I am sorry if it seems scattered, but I really am trying to get all the information I can as soon as I can. If there is anything else I left out, please fill in. Please criticize where needed, I need all input.

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bigbovine, you brought up OA, but there's a reason you're missing regarding lack of interest.


The OA is the BSA's camping honor society. In a nutshell, while the OA is the "botherhood of cheerful service", and the lodge will do service activities and events, it is about additional opportunities for the boys to camp with their friends. The OA is also where the boys can camp without half a dozen moms in their campsite.


Also, the Troop not encouraging it *does* discourage it. How many troops have you seen that don't encourage camping or earning Eagle? Yes, a Troop is "youth run", but youth take a lot of cues from their adult leadership.


The OA also has some internal issues that (IMO) have been making it steadily less appealing to the boys, but that's another discussion.

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OGE.....I agree with the cost.


in the Troop "Car Camping" the troop owns all but the personal gear. Backpacking the boys will need to get a Backpack, a better sleeping bag, possibly a BP tent, the cost goes up a bunch. The youth I serve cannot afford it......I own 6 backpacks and as a reward we take 6 of our best scouts out on a backpacking weekend trip, to a location of their choosing.


Our crew is similar to what OGE said, they canoe, kayak, whitewater raft and backpack and it is too expensive for my wife and I to both attend, we are both advisers.

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>>Also, the Troop not encouraging it *does* discourage it. How many troops have you seen that don't encourage camping or earning Eagle? Yes, a Troop is "youth run", but youth take a lot of cues from their adult leadership.

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Eagledad, when I say "encouraged", I mean troop leadership doing anything from holding elections to going to OA events with the boys. I don't mean "beating the war drums" about OA at every opportunity. I say that because some troops don't even hold OA elections...I would call that "discouragement", even if the leadership isn't actively bad-mouthing the OA.


My point was that everything an adult leader does, even ambivalence, makes an impression.


With multiple Lodge Chiefs from your troop, I'd say you're encouraging OA participation, even if you don't think you are...congrats to your program.

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A couple of thoughts:


"...more scouts leave the BSA during their first year of scouting than any other age and it has always been that way. The reason is because the sudden independence of boy scouting is more than a lot of boys can handle at that age and maturity"


I think whomever at BSA came to that conclusion may have missed the mark - and not about the sudden independence thing but about it being more than a lot of boys can handle. As an alternative, I suggest that a lot of Cub Scouts remain Cub Scouts because their parents have made the decision that their son will be a Cub Scout, but once they cross over, I've found that a lot of parents will let their sons decide if they will remain and most of them will drop out, for no other reason than they got to make the decision and no one is pressuring them to stay. The lads aren't finding the independence burdensome, they're finding it freeing.


I'll go so far as to say it's always been this way. The Pack I came from (early 70's - ancient times) had upwards of 100 Cub Scouts. The other 3 Packs in town ranged from 50 to 75. Figure there were about 250+ Cub Scouts in town. The 4 Troops in town had less than 100 Boy Scouts total and my Troop had 40 of them. Looking back, I recognize that for many of my fellow Scouts, our parents were involved in Pack Leadership, or became active in Troop or District leadership, and that it was clear, if unspoken, that leaving Scouts was just not an option.


If there is any program area that has hurt Boy Scouts, I don't think it comes from Cub Scouts. I believe we should be looking at the whole First Class First Year emphasis, which has turned T-2-1 into a classroom experience for many and into Webelos 3. If I was told that my first year of Summer Camp that I would have to go to the camp's T-2-1 program instead of taking some merit badges I thought would be interesting, I'd quit.

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Calico says:


I agree with your post in general (as usual) but I do not think I agree with your last paragraph. If it is done correctly, the First Class First Year emphasis can help retention, not hurt it. Doing it correctly means that the boys are not in lockstep to get these ranks completed in 12 (or more realistically 18, though I have seen a couple make 1C in 7 or 8) months, but rather that the program is designed to give them the opportunity to do so. If the program is a good one, they'll be learning knots and setting up tents and practicing CPR and other fun stuff that is not "classroom work", and along the way they'll be passing requirements. Admittedly there are a few requirements that do seem a bit homework-y, but I don't think they are overly burdensome. The "opportunity" part also means they have to "be there", and not miss half the meetings and two-thirds of the camping trips due to sporting events and other activities and then expect to be advancing along with everybody else. As I have said in the past, I think the single biggest problem with retention is sports, which is why the BSA has tried (not very successfully) to build sports into its own program in various ways.


And then there's this:


If I was told that my first year of Summer Camp that I would have to go to the camp's T-2-1 program instead of taking some merit badges I thought would be interesting, I'd quit.


Thinking back to "my day", first-year campers almost never did merit badges. I believe you had to be 2C to work on merit badges at all. To tell you the truth, I am not sure what I did as a first-year camper. I do not think there was an organized program. We probably went swimming and did archery, etc. In the summer camp my son attended for most of his years as a Scout, things were a lot more structured. I think the only time he got to do archery was when he earned the Archery Merit Badge. (Not as a first-year camper though.)

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