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"He already did this, does it count"?

If a cub has already completed activities that closely, or essentially identically, align with some of the requirements for an adventure, should they be credited with the completion of the requirements, and how far back should they get credit for?

This is a question one of our other den leaders asked about procedures for Cub scout advancement requirements in general. Her son was the only boy in her den, so when she asked this same question earlier in the year the answer was different.

At the beginning of the year the takeaway was, it’s only your son in the den, and nobody is going to be checking up to be sure which requirements have or have not been accurately completed. Use your best judgement, because if you just credit him for everything, it’s your boy you’re cheating out of the experience. Recently we recruited several new wolf cubs to join that den, and that same den leader posed the same question to the other leaders, because now it effects other kids and parents, and she’s hoping for a more definitive answer.

Almost all the Cub requirements can be completed at home, with a parent or trusted adult, so it seems reasonable that any activities done at home that satisfy requirements should count, not just those done specifically with the requirements in mind. On the other hand, it doesn’t make sense for this to be totally open ended. A bear cub that did a project 2 years ago should probably have to redo it, in an age appropriate way, to satisfy the requirements now. Is there any specific guidance from the BSA spelled out on this?

Common sense suggests to me that if they did it within this scouting year (or recently within the past few months, if we’re right at the beginning of a program year), then it should count. If we’re reaching farther back than that it’s probably too much of a stretch.

How is this handled in other packs?

@MatthewWalters1 - the cubs should really work on things that satisfy the requirements that they are currently working under. So if it is a bear scout then working on bear requirements would be the appropriate course of action. Counting something from the tiger year would not really cover it as the requirements ask more of the scout. I tend to check the guide to advancement specifically the section on the mechanics of advancement for cub scouts. The other thing to think of is they just joined, then anything prior to joining is not applicable.

And I suspect that Charlie will explain this better than me.


Some general rules of thumb that I applied as a den leader. These are not, as far as I know, official BSA rules but seemed like common sense applications:

Nothing done before the start of that program year counts for that program year. (i.e. done as a Tiger can’t count for Wolf, etc). Exception: Both “years” of Webelos are treated as a single program, so things done once starting Webelos could count for both Webelos or AoL adventures. This may no longer be true, depending on exactly how the rules now read regarding working on AoL prior to completing Webelos. The BSA Guide to Advancement states:

which I think is a pretty clear indicator that a scout isn’t permitted to count something done during what was (or would have been) a previous program year.

Requirements that state “with your den” or similar verbiage must satisfy the specified conditions, unless specifically approved by the DL. I was flexible on this one, since there are obviously times that a scout misses an event where the den does something, and it’s not feasible to insist that the den go back and do it again for the one scout. I usually counsel the scout and parent what the intent of having the activity done as a den (e.g. cooperative planning, teamwork, etc) and make some suggestions as to how they could achieve a similar effect doing it at home (e.g. incorporate a sibling or a friend, have the parent role-play as another scout to simulate a group dynamic).

At the end of the day, though, the standard for Cub Scout advancement is Do Your Best, per the Guide to Advancement. So, if the parent states that the scout did his or her best to meet the requirement as stated, then that ruled the day. I usually asked the scout what they did so I had some sense of what they did and understood from the activity, and tried to use that discussion to “fill in any blanks” in what the scout got out of the activity.


:laughing: only because I type so slowly…


Yes, that’s what I was saying. It doesn’t make sense that a bear would get credit for something done as a tiger (a couple years old, as in my example of what seemed wrong).

However, nothing prior to joining should count at all? What about a new wolf that just took a swimming class; should they not get credit for the swim test portion of the “Spirit of the Water” adventure of they and their parents attests that they have recently done it? It seems onerous to ask they prove it, especial given the requirement says “with your family or Wolf den”.

Given that Cubs move up from one scout year to the next based on when their previous school year ends, OR on their birthday, it seems washy to begin with. What’s truly the difference between a tiger became a wolf at end of the school year, and a wolf that joins at fall recruitment? I don’t know … I’m just thinking out loud at this point.

Thank you for that. That does seem like a fairly definitive ruling in that excerpt.

I would not give any credit for activities completed prior to joining. But I am flexible in the date they joined. Technically, it should be the date the app was signed by the CM, but that’s not in the scout’s control. In fact, they can’t even control when their parent turns it in. So, I count the earliest of the date the app was turned in or they first attended an event (unless there’s a significant gap between that first attendance and when they turn it in).


@jacobfetzer makes a good point.

My definition of “joining” is functionally the same as his. If the scout shows up to “try out” scouts, then the parent submits an application in a reasonably timely fashion, I generally count that “try out” period as being during the scout’s registered period of participation. Appearances to the contrary, I generally try not to let the paperwork get in the way of the scouts’ involvement.


There are also some awards that cover multiple years. Nova awards are an example. Things done as a Wolf still count toward Nova Awards as a Bear, except the rank specific items.


I agree, if this is a recent accomplishment of a boy or girl who was about to join up anyway, don’t let the paperwork get in the way of recognition. File under “work for smiles.”

Let’s assume that this happened well before the scout was considering scouting. Worst case scenario, the scout doesn’t earn that achievement. No big deal. Tell him or her, there’s a similar award that they can earn next year if they stick around. But, say this family does a lot of swimming and boating (as mine does, with grandparents within 200 yards of a Great lake) … I think it’s good to recognize that the scout was doing something very important to be able to participate in his/her family’s activities.

So, yes, it’s a good idea to set up a few gates, but sometimes some judgement is required.

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All good feedback …

And @Qwazse I’m from Michigan, so great lakes for sure. Swimming, boating, etc, is a big thing for most people, so that’s why the example came to mind for me.

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@MatthewWalters1, I didn’t find anything that overtly says nothing done prior to joining is supposed to be counted. However, it is easy to infer that from this excerpt from Guide to Advancement section

A former member who rejoins a BSA program, still as a youth member, may carry on in the advancement and pick up where they left off, but will not receive credit for activities while not registered. A former member who is no longer eligible to participate in a BSA program as a youth member due to age, for example, can neither receive credit for completing advancement requirements nor be awarded any advancement-oriented recognition such as ranks or merit badges, etc., that the individual was ineligible to earn as a youth member under the rules in effect at that time.

It follows logically that if a Scout with a lapse in registration cannot be credited for advancement items completed during the lapse, then a Scout who was never registered cannot be credited with items completed prior to joining.

There is, of course, an exception to this rule with regard to a Scout who joins the BSA after living abroad and participating in another country’s Scouting program. During my time as an SM, I had a Scout move to New York from Singapore. After a review of what he had completed in Singapore, the council advancement committee determined he should be awarded the rank of Star Scout. The committee also determined which Eagle-required merit badges would be waived based on his work in Singapore. He’s the only Eagle Scout I know personally who had less than 21 merit badges. He was not credited with earning the waived merit badges; he was only credited with completing the rank advancement requirement. So, for instance, he does not have First Aid merit badge. Obviously, his Eagle application needed special handling.

Several folks here have made the point that it is important to apply common sense. I endorse that notion. Currently as a CM, I apply the same principle of crediting a Scout for everything s/he has done since the first time s/he showed up to check out our pack, even if the application is turned in and signed and dated by me a couple of weeks later.

In the last program year, we had a younger sibling who was Tiger age who started coming with her brother in September. Her mother (our pack committee chair at the time) didn’t turn in an application or make any payment until March. After a discussion with her, she agreed that it wasn’t fair to everyone else who had paid dues to the pack for her daughter to join and then the very next day receive several months of Tiger adventure loops and the Bobcat rank. There is a line somewhere, and it is certainly blurry, but that was on the other side of it.

The feel-good ending: The young lady showed a positive attitude and pushed her way through to earning the Bobcat and Tiger ranks, even though she got a very late start.


I am in agreement with “it has to be completed after taking the first steps of becoming a scout”. We don’t need a completed application stamped and processed by the council with the scout finally showing up in Scoutbook, but once the Scout shows up (even to a “see what Cub Scouts is actually about” quick visit) I feel any activities count.

I admit I’m also fairly relaxed when it comes to what activities count towards adventures, especially on their own time. I encourage parents to mark advancements in Scoutbook together with adding notes to keep track of their activities, and I also encourage them to promote many of the activities even if the kids aren’t doing “Scout” things. As a parent you don’t need to tell your kids “we are going on a scout adventure walk to listen for bird sounds”, you can just take the opportunity during a walk to say “let’s listen for birds, what do you hear” and make it part of a “regular walk”.

I look at it this way: as a Den Leader my big focus during the limited meeting times can be on helping kids be “Scouts”, and then parents can help their kids take “being a Scout in uniform” and help them transform the Scout values and lessons into just being better people. That way I hope they eventually learn to do things not to get a pin or loop, but because they think it’s a good and/or fun thing to do.

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Thank you, that was helpful.

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