Help your scouts develop skills and a love for scouting by bringing the adventures to life
The most important thing you can do as a leader to make sure the boys have fun and learn good skills is to know what you need to teach. If you are a Cub Master or a Den Leader you must take the time to read over what you will be teaching at least a week or two in advance in order to prepare and plan.
If you are new to Cub Scouts and do not know what to do in your position or how Cub Scouts is run, go to scouting.org. Click on programs, select Cub Scouts and click on the picture of your position. Each link listed is a training video that will explain the program and what you do in your position. They even have information for parents.
If you are also helping the boys earn their religious emblem, make yourself aware of the requirements and how you can tie them into your Pack meetings and Den meetings. It can make those Pack and Den meetings more memorable and pass off items for the boys.
For a Cub Master: Go to scouting.org, click on programs select CUB SCOUTS. Scroll down. Select cub master, select Pack meeting plans, scroll down to the correct year. Select the correct month. Everything is there for an outline for that month’s pack meeting. If your dens take turns doing a gather/game activity, doing a skit/song, and doing flag ceremony/saying law and oath, no one will need to make up items or search for fun ideas, everything is there. Do you need ideas for rank advancement ceremonies? There is an idea for every rank from Bobcat to Arrow of Light that goes with the theme for each month. You might ask “Why is this not just printed as a handbook?” Because the themes (which are the values of the law) rotate each year. BSA would have to print a new one every year. To save on cost, it is all online. Hopefully your cub scout committee is having a monthly meeting before every pack meeting. At this meeting you can plan out who will do each part. Hand out the parts, plan what supplies need to be purchased, if any, days before the pack meeting. Then, when reminder texts are sent out to the families of boys in Cub Scouts, you can tell them the fun things you will be doing. Also, remind those who are advancing, or newcomers, and welcome them in. This will bring the Boy Scout Law to life for the boys and their families, as they learn what each point of the law teaches and how they can live it.
For a Den Leader: Know your handbook and the new modifications that came out in December 2016. If you have a handbook, but it does not have the modification booklets, (They are a pamphlet and have the cover of the handbook you are teaching on the front in black and white.) you can get one for free at your local scouting store at the payment counter. If you get a new book they are already placed inside each book. Take time to look them over, they have made the program easier. Be aware of the different things you are going to be doing. Notice if a requirement needs to be done outdoors and in good weather with daylight, and plan what month to do this in.
Get to know your boys. What are their likes and dislikes. (speaking in public, reading out loud, etc). Any disabilities, allergies, hobbies, talents, etc. You will need to work around and with these.
For scouting programs where boys come in on their birthdays, take note of who is the oldest one in your group. Be sure to plan to do the Adventures or Electives that boy needs to earn his rank. Keep charts and records of each boy’s progress.
If your program starts in September and ends in June, then you can simply choose to start with the adventures or electives that need to be done in good outdoor weather.
There are several different online tracking programs. (These may have a cost per year or per boy). You can print out a charting record at Akela’s council.blogspot.com. The best way to find them is to Google it. (The Akela’s council site does not currently have a chart available that reflects the modifications made to the Cub Scout program in 2016, but these may be updated soon). You can also create your own charts using spreadsheets or other methods, the important thing is to track progress and communicate with parents.
Prepare for the adventure or elective you are going to teach at least a week in advance. It is really helpful if the den leader and assistant leader plan what adventures or electives they will teach for that month. Figure out how many den meetings you think it will take to do the adventures or electives you want to teach. Decide who will teach each part. Perhaps one of you may have the supplies needed and the other leader does not. Communicate. Also, when you go to a committee meeting and you do not have supplies or items needed, you can ask others there if they may have what you need. Or perhaps you are planning a field trip, or need a guest speaker. Others in the committee may have good ideas of where you can go or who could come speak. If you go through the lessons a little slower than planned, don’t worry. If you go through them a little faster you will need to meet again to decide what you will teach next. Always have a plan.
How to make it fun now that you have the fundamentals.
If you are going to have a guest speaker and you are concerned the boys might get a little bored and be wiggly or not listen politely, take action. Before the speaker starts or before the speaker arrives, let the boys know that if they behave correctly they will receive a reward. I have given boy scout pins we bought at Scout-O-Rama. They came in a brown lunch bag for $5.00 or a dollar per handful. They are pins from years ago and look really cool. Try not to do sweet treats or snacks often. You are only with the boys for one hour a week. They do not need to eat something each time.
If you are trying to decide on a fun field trip use Google for ideas, or reach out to others in your community. Look up good hiking spots in your area using Google. Go check out the hike before you take the boys. Check the weather before to you go on the hike, and make sure to communicate with parents on supplies needed and dress accordingly. Also check with the council and other resources for possible awards the boys can earn for different trips. Check out www.saltlakescouts.org/cub-activity-patches. Many of these can also be awarded to Boy Scouts.
For any adventure or elective you want to teach where you must make something, build something or tie knots, etc.- Do it first at home, so you can learn what might be difficult to do and have it figured out beforehand. For example, if you need to teach how to start a fire without matches, try it out yourself first. I have also gone onto Youtube and typed in how to start a fire with a magnifying glass. It is really helpful.
If you have to do a lot of sitting and talking to explain things to the boys for one of the adventures or electives, mix in some physical activities. It is okay to redo parts of “Running with the Pack”, or “Faster, Stronger, Higher” or “Grin and Bear It”. This gets them on their feet and are fun activities.
Allow yourself to have fun. You might be teaching things you have never learned before. Have fun. Allow yourself to be a kid again. Think “would these boys at their age think this is a fun way to learn this?” and “What would I think would be fun, and would they too?”
Make it enjoyable for you! The boys will see your enthusiasm and enjoy it too.
Keep the boys engaged by asking them questions and having them act out scenarios. Make them part of the discussion. Don’t catch yourself reading out of the handbook to the boys. If you need to get an idea across to them, ask one or two of them to prepare something to help with. This is not school, we are preparing them to be leaders, let them lead. Boys love to act out situations and be silly.
Don’t expect the boys to ever sit there and behave. This is the exception, not the rule. Things will get out of hand occasionally. Expect that and do your best to reroute the discussion to the point trying to be made without making it a big deal. We want these boys to be social and build relationships with their fellow Scouts and part of this is done in the Den meetings. Cub Scout meetings are not church meeting and we cannot expect the boys to sit for an hour quietly.
Being fun and having fun with the boys does not mean being carefree and running by the seat of your pants. You have to be prepared, but you also have to be open to going off plan to an extent, but always bring it back to what you are teaching or working on.
One of the best parts of working with the boys, is being able to be a kid with them too. While we do have a serious role and are preparing these boys to be leaders, we also need to be able to get down to their level. Be silly, sing songs, wear funny hats, costumes, bring props and other visual aids. These things will make a huge difference.
Care. Boys are perceptive. They will know if you care about them and the program or are just going through the motions. Get to know each boy. Ask them about their week, hobbies, school, sports. Listen to them. So many boys just want someone to listen. When an adult takes a few minutes to listen to a child, they recognize that as caring. You are their leader and it goes a very long way.
Let a boy and/or their parent teach or help out with the meetings. Boys will listen to their peers sometimes better than the adult leader. The boys are relatable to them and in most cases are in similar situations. There are multiple requirements where the boys need to share something with the Den or Pack. Look for those, communicate with the boys and parents and give the boys time to talk about what they brought (ie, rock collections, robots, etc). Do not rush these moments.
Recognize and thank the boys for anything that they do to help. Whether this is for a prayer said, helping with the Pledge, or bringing something or preparing something. Reinforce good behavior. This not only positively affects the boy involved, but inspires the other boys to follow suit.
Beads. Boys love recognition. Pony beads are cheap and fun. At a meeting, let the boys make a necklace and then award them with beads each week. Have a color for each task, such as 1. Coming to den meeting, 2. Wearing uniform (A or B), 3. Bringing their book, 4. Helping with the flag or oath/law, 5. Teaching part of a lesson, 6. Other volunteering or helping. This is a better reward than any candy or treat we can give them. They will wear them proud and show them off to others. Consider plastic claws or other decorations for special recognition as well.
Get input from the boys. Give them options and some control of the program. Let them know what electives there are that they can work on and let them vote on it. (this goes back to leadership as well) Follow through with their ideas and if something will not work out that they want to do, be honest with them on why.
Let them know what is coming up. You should have at least several weeks planned in advance. Let the boys know at Den meeting what you are doing next week and the following, upcoming Pack activities, etc. Let them know what awards they will be getting and while they are working on something, let them know what they are passing off.
More recognition. Every boy that comes to Pack meeting should get something. This is where older pins and patches help out. Check your Pack closet, Scout-o-Rama and discount patches at the Scout shop (sometimes they have patches for .25 a patch on clearance), and have these ready. Try to tie it into activities you are working on, or just recognize them as a Scout working towards the next thing.