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General Den Advancement

I planned our den’s Adventures, so that we do one adventure per meeting. We meet every other week. Ideally, they would come to all the meetings, and they would all advance together. It’s not a perfect world, so I’ve got some boys that are 10% done with their Wolf rank and one that’s 90% done.

Last year, I got two transfers, late in the year, that had done very little in their previous packs. I held a Super Scout Saturday, where we got them caught up to the rest of the Den. The boys that already earned, the adventures that we covered, didn’t mind doing them again, but it was a long and exhausting day.

My goal is to graduate all the boys in the Den. How do you handle the ones that didn’t make the meetings to earn their adventures? Do you take it upon yourself to get them caught up, or do you put that on the parents?

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Well the parents are the one that did not get them to the meeting - so I say put it on parents

I’ll probably get some dirty comments for what I’m bout to say. This is cub scouts, our main job is to make sure these kids have fun. Your doing the right thing by planning the adventures but if a kid misses a meeting don’t stress bout it. Just let the parents know what they did last meeting and it’s up to them. That’s a good for the transfer scouts with getting them caught up. If you got a kid that is still around come April or May when you give it awards, don’t stress bout them missing a few meetings and graduate them on. I guarantee that kid will remember being left out. It’s better to leave these kids with good memories than bad memories. Those memories are what will help them make their opinion of scouting when they are parents with kids wanting to do cub scouts.


Bryan, just so I’m clear … I know you advance all scouts to the next rank, but are you saying to not worry about them making rank?

No I’m not saying that. Plan your meetings to cover all the adventures to make the rank. Just dont stress and lose sleep if a kid misses some meetings.

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Far from dirty comments, I think you’re exactly, 100% right. You don’t engage kids in Scouting at Cub Scout ages by being a hardass taskmaster – excuse my French. You get them engaged by letting them explore and learn about the world, and try to guide them in accordance with the Scout Law to help them grow into good leaders and good parents.


While all this is true you are ignoring the :elephant: in the room - the parents. If you just give them all ranks, there Might be one of the parents to come to you and complain that they did not finish - no big deal you just say “glad your stepping up for Den Leader next year” and they will shut up. But if you plan to only giver rank to those that earned it, give those parents heads up that their Scout will not receive it unless they do stuff at home, and do it well in advance - the parents whose kids don’t get rank without them knowing can be kinda nasty.


I live in a rural area with a lot of low income families. My pack doesn’t require books and I’m pretty sure 95% of my parents don’t even know the requirements. My main goal is to make sure those kids have fun and learn something whenever they’re with the pack. The ranks are just to make the kids feel proud. When we get time for our blue and gold we award all the kids still around the required belt loops and their rank. After that we award elective belt loops at the meeting so nobody feel left out because they missed a meeting.

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When I have a scout who misses a meeting or two I talk to the parents and come up with a plan where they come 30 minutes early to meetings to get caught up. I also have the scout there to help with setup. I also have the parents do some of the requirements at home. It’s been working good for me and my scouts.

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I will print out a work sheet whenever we start a new adventure. That way the parents know what the requirements are. That way I also get my parents involved a bit by asking them to do one or two things at home.

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I continue to struggle with the issue of rank advancement as the current program is written. I liked what @AlexanderHenderson said in another thread:

the BSA advancement program is a METHOD of scouting, not the objective. The objective is to develop character, citizenship, and fitness in our scouts. So if a youth did not achieve a rank, but grew in character, citizenship, and/or fitness, the year in scouting was a success. You and the scout can move on to the next set of adventures with pride in your previous year’s accomplishments.

Overall, the 2015 Cub Scout program revisions are simply too complicated for kids & parents, especially when transportation to den meetings or competing activities like sports/music practice make it a challenge to participate (COVID makes it even tougher). I would like rank requirements simplified and be less work/more options & fun, also deemphasize “Duty to God” requirements to simply say practice your religion

As someone who wasn’t that familiar with the pre-2015 Cub Requirements, I recently took a quick look (for example, here are the 2003 Bear Requirements).

Personally, I think the Achievements and Arrow Points approach was quite a bit more complicated than the current Adventure approach. Yes, there may have been more options and flexibility for an individual scout, but it looks like it took a lot more time to figure out, especially for Den Leaders who had to wade through all the options to decide on what to do with each Den Meeting, and then figure out an actual program to do it. And I have no idea how folks kept up with recording all those Advancements.

The new Adventure approach seems far more streamlined to me, and the guidance for DLs is much more straightforward in the Guides. As a DL, all you really have to do is choose 6 Adventures, and then you have 6-12 Den Meeting plans ready to go. The whole Den can easily stay on the same page, but there are plenty of additional electives for motivated Scouts.

That is not to say that I don’t have suggestions for improvement, including:

  • Providing alternate Adventure meeting plans for Dens that meet 1, 2 or 3 times a month.
  • Perhaps provide more overlap, so it’s not an entirely new program every year which DLs have to relearn. Combining electives for Lion/Tiger, and Wolf/Bear, much like Webelos/AOL might be an easy approach.
  • Provide more opportunities or guidance so Pack events can be used to satisfy requirements for more than one Den.

All that said, while I think the current program is far better than pre-2015, @BrendonHoch may be advocating for even more simplification or flexibility to keep youth more engaged, and by extension their Parents, and more importantly, their overtaxed leaders. And given that Advancement is not the Purpose of Cub Scouting, I can’t argue with that.


@SageLichtenwalner - As someone with extensive experience with the pre-2015 program, you are on the money in concluding the current program is far more simple. In the all-paper era, it was a huge task to figure out whether each boy advanced and how many arrow points he had earned.

Going back to 1942, when the Wolf, Bear and Lion ranks were decoupled from one another (prior to that, the advancement system was a progression of the three ranks), the idea was and remains for a Scout to have a set of requirements to meet over the course of a year and be recognized for it. Whether the rank was earned or not, the Scout moves on to a new challenge the following year. It isn’t that astronomy is a bad topic for Wolves but a good one for Tigers (Sky is the Limit adventure), it’s just that astronomy is compartmentalized into the Tiger year, so there is room for other topics in other years, Astronomy returns for Webelos Scouts, This keeps the program fresh as the Scout moves through the ranks.

The new program addresses immediate recognition with the adventure loops. For most of teh exitence of the previous format, Scouts were not recognized at all until they completed their rank. Now they get bling along the way. For the final 35 years or so of the old program, there was a Progress toward Ranks device worn hanging from the right pocket. Scouts received a bead after completing three achievements. There were yellow beads for Wolf achievements and red beads for Bear achievements. Try to imagine what it was like to keep track of which Scouts had been presented which beads with all your records on paper. You also needed to keep an inventory of the beads. Since not every Scout finished, you had beads left over at the end (which was good, because they would fal off the thong, and Scouts would lose them). Many packs opted not to use them at all.

Adventure loops are a serious upgrade to the effort to provide immediate recognition.

While at first glance, it might make sense to provide more opportunities for Scouts of all ages to compete requirements together, if there are Tiger, Wolf and Bear astronomy electives, when will the Wolves have time for archaeology (Digging in the Past) or Bears have time for Robotics?

All ranks have hiking, outdoor activity and service project requirements. My pack tries to get these done all at once as pack activities. But once yet get away from things of a general nature, the program stays fresh if the Scouts work on such things as a den.

Aside from being a Cubmaster, I’m also a GSUSA troop volunteer. So, Lion/Tiger = Daisy. Wolf/Bear = Brownie. Fourth and fifth graders are Juniors. In some ways, the two-year program is advantaggous, because you can engage in things that take longer to complete. Girl Scvouts work on Journeys, which are modules comprising several badges each. A Journey could take a few months to complete, and it’s a deep dive into a subject area. For example, the Brownies in my troop recently completed the Wonders of Water Journey, which they started in the spring but didn’t work on over the summer. They learned about conserving water, scarcity of water, pollution, and sharing water. They also completed a Take Action project composed of a publicity campaign in which they advocated for water conservation. There is nothing Wolves and Bears do that is so comprehensive as that. it would eat up almost half of either the Wolf or Bear year if there were such a thing.

Diving into your point, we should ask: What of Scouts could work on the Wolf and Bear ranks simultaneously during second and third grades? That would help smaller packs that need to combine dens. It’s hard to see what the disadvantage would be. The one thing that comes to mind is Whittling Chip. If we continue to not want second graders handling knoves at all, that activity would need to be restricted.

I think combining Lion/Tiger into a single two-year program would be more difficult. Many Lions are simply not ready for some of the Tiger adventures.

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Remember, we volunteer our time for the kids to provide them a safe and fun scouting experience that ultimately prepares them for their transition to a troop. That being said, parents are as much part of the pack as the scouts are and need to do their part as well. Your dilemma sounds like the parents did not hold up their end of the agreement. I would have a private conversation with the parents of the scouts who are lagging behind the den, explain that their scout is in jeopardy of not earning their rank, and ask them to work with their scouts at home to get caught up where they can. Were it me, if the parents met me half way working on the requirements at home, I would be willing to coordinate the “with your den or pack” requirements for the scouts. Its always the scout who suffers when the parents are not engaged…sad.


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