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Is the program meeting the expectations of our families and youth?

I look at the Cub Scout Program as the foundation of the entire Scouting program experience. For Scouting to be successful we must recruit, engage and meet the expectations of both youth members and parents. Too often I hear horror stories of packs that have lackluster programs, weak den and pack meetings, few meaningful activities and zero or near zero activities from early spring to after school night in September. A pack can become a gold standard unit and still drop a fourth of its membership annually. That is not good retention. In a 6 year program that is dropping 150%… stop and think about that. Parents are often not engaged and a handful of dedicated leaders try to put on a good show but often fail because of a lack of support. In time, they burn out and leave and often the unit falls apart. This pandemic has hit the BSA hard. Very little recruiting has happened and families don’t want to pay fees for a ‘virtual’ program experience.
Now, right now, is the perfect time and opportunity to change all of that. Council professionals should be meeting with volunteers and assisting them in making plans for when the pandemic restrictions lift to rebuild their units and programs. Now is the time to be doing program planning, recruiting additional leadership at the unit and district levels from those volunteers and families that are still active and preparing for a massive recruiting effort as soon as schools are back in session. Now is the time to rebuild weak school relationships and regain the access that we may be missing.
We need to be prepared to recruit not only kids but parents and to focus on great volunteer participation along with solid 12 month program experiences. The only way to meet the expectations of parents and kids is to set the bar high for everyone. Don’t become Baby Sitters of America… Expect parent participation, let the new families know that this is a family values and family involved program. Everyone will benefit and be happier in the long run.
To me, a quality program will have at least 80% if not 90%+ of it’s membership remain from entry to graduation. That means pretty much a 100% retention rate except for folks that move out of the area. If they sign up with your unit, they will stay if you/we meet their needs and expectations.

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Around here, pre covid, most of the packs had fairly good recruitment and retention. The big membership drop occurs at or after cross over.

As far as appealing to more kids, I think that’s bigger than what can be done at a local level, I think the program needs to be revised. It’s very repetitive and it needs to be more focused on the outdoors.

I’m not sure what you mean by a 12 month program. We do summer camp and an ad hoc activity or two if anyone is around but people, especially volunteers, seem to want a break over the summer. It’s also getting increasingly difficult to define “summer”. We have kids starting school first week of August and other kids starting the first week or two of September, with impacts at the end of year to go along with that.

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I agree on the outdoor side. Everyone who wants to get outdoors should see Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA as the premiere outdoor organization to join. I feel like Cubs is pretty far from that. Scouts BSA is only partly that.

Funny side note. I was trying to encourage our Scoutmaster to volunteer to be a SM or ASM of a Jamboree troop. After seeing the videos of what the Jamboree is, she was like “I’d rather go backpacking”.

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Especially for Cubs, to do outdoor program you do need decent weather… In most parts of the country that generally means summer. My son’s pack ran a full 12 month program including den meetings. The pack had at least one activity each month during the summer including outdoor pack meetings, field trips, day camp, resident camp and den field trips and activities. Kids generally have a ton of ‘free’ time during the summer and what better way to fill it up than scouts? There is a lot of advancement that is best done out of doors and the kids enjoy getting together, so do the parents. Our summer events and activities were often better attended than the school year events and meetings. It takes planning but if you make it worthwhile you get the participation. Summer pack meetings were part meeting, part picnic and part activities like wiffleball, creek walks, fishing and other outdoor activities.

I attended a Jamboree and Philmont and I’d take Philmont over the Jamboree.

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I know, lol. No one in our area is interested in any kind of jam action.

We run cubs outdoors in all but most extreme weather. Advancement is the fun killer that you mention. Scouting in general needs to move away from being so advancement focused. Planning has nothing to do with summer activity. People in our area simply aren’t around.

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Some interesting things in this thread… I agree that there are always ways to improve program and process… Although it isn’t the same everywhere or even for every group. Some definitely benefit from a solid 12 month program, others are compelled to take a seasonal break - leaders should understand the needs of the group through communication and engagement.

What I think is critical to call out here is that “advancement focus” are designed to encourage activity and guide program. However, the leaders can and should tailor that to the needs of the ‘class’ or age groups in the Pack at the time.

There is no one size fits all answer. In my opinion, one of the greatest strengths of the program is diversity and flexibility - while providing universal opportunity for great (fun!) experiences, reinforcing family values and instilling character.

I’m fresh-faced, pandemic worn, and feeling stuck. So much of what you (OP) described is what my pack feels like. I’m two years into my den leadership of current Wolves and three years in having kids in our pack as my oldest joined as a Wolf when girls were allowed.

Many times I feel like “that’s it?” in regards to the cyclical pattern of operation and redundancy in teaching. I do understand repetition reinforces learning. The imagination is all up to the den leader to add. I welcome this but don’t always have it at the ready.

I participated in Girl Scouts for a handful of years in elementary school and didn’t have exposure to BSA in my family as my younger brothers participated once I was away at college. Facing next year is pretty scary. Due to issues getting into our local schools for recruitment 2 years in a row, followed by a pandemic, my Wolf den is the YOUNGEST scouts in the pack. Our Cub Master ages up next spring as do most of the leaders. I’ve tried to network with previous leadership without insider connections but feel like my inexperience is going to be a big tipping point for the pack’s survival.

Older leaders are aging up with their scouts and there is enormous pressure for me to, as the only trained leader, become leadership I can’t commit to with 4 kids under 10. My spouse’s job keeps him busy nights and weekends so I take ALL the kids with me ALL the time. I feel it would be hard to lead a pack meeting while caring for them.

I don’t want to rock the boat but also see our boat is capsizing. I also haven’t burned out yet but I can feel how it would happen quickly if I don’t flip this thing into a parent-enticing fun machine. Council should have an eye on this and pair experienced leaders with new ones as well as follow up. Volunteer loss happens.

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Hi Cait, welcome… This past year has been very difficult for the program. Judges opened the gates to shark (lawyer) infested waters by extending time frames and liability deadlines against the BSA and a massive ad campaign was launched against the BSA on cases, most of which were 3,4,5 and more decades old. Then, the National Office declared Bankruptcy and then along came the pandemic that closed schools and restricted in person gatherings and generally disrupted everything. It does appear that things may start getting back to normal in a few months… fingers crossed… I have a suggestion, actually a few. First, try to have a get together of your dens families. Explain that you need support and that this is a family values program. Everyone doesn’t need to register but they can become familiar with the program. Schedule a ‘Program Planning’ meeting with them for the coming year. The pack should be having their own but dens can do this too. Look at the advancement opportunities, outdoor activities, local parks and community festivities (keep in mind some may not happen due to covid restrictions) and map out your program for the next 12 to 18 months. See what skills, talents and resources your families have and incorporate them into your program. I did this years ago for my kids and we started with 6 families and grew to 19 in just a few months with everyone contributing. In two years we had over 50 families (Pack program) and shortly after that we spun a new 30 boy pack off from our pack. We always had a full summer program that included den and pack events, meetings and lots of advancement and recognition. Also, you can meet with your school’s administration and explain the values and importance of the program and get their support. Go the the marketing section at national and you will find videos 30-60 second, that the schools can run during morning announcements for the classes and your local council will print flyers for an open house or school night. There is a wealth of information on the net and you can always ask for help here. Good Luck and God Bless…

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I am concerned with the lost boys. Ones whom have done Eagles or almost there, but fall through the cracks.

@SheriDaar - well the lost ones have been a concern since I was a scout in the 70’s. Although the eagles dont apply to the cub program. I would never count them as totally lost and gone. Very often they return with their own youth to the program. If you consider the time most scouts spend from tiger to eagle it is a considerable amount of time. That in mind it is hard to blame them for the time away. A decade in scouting in their youth is a great accomplishment not to be overlooked.

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Sadly, when a youth/family leave Scouting, no matter at what point in the program, they seldom return. Usually it is just a matter of not having their expectations met. If a young Cub leaves, we will probably never see that youth or their family back, even in Scouts or Venturing. That is why we need to ‘DO OUR BEST’ to meet expectations and engage the whole family. Quality program retains members.

I also share concern for the girls entering the open doors but getting supported as the boys have. Despite enthusiastic efforts on our part, my daughter has been a lone female Cub Scout from Wolf to now older Webelo I. Joining when her friends were socially already committed left a vacuum of potential den mates. Reluctantly, the pack placed her into a boy den where she and they happily co-exist. But the day is coming when she will be the only one who doesn’t get to stick with her “den” as they advance, losing that team and relationships to mandatory, and yes, necessary, division. There are no female Scouts in the attached Troop and we risk splintering the “family scouting” into a pack and separate troop for my 4 kids. Or we would have to decide to continue in solitary status which really stresses me out to consider for her.

Do packs reach out to other Troops on Scouts behalfs to find a good match? She’s our first.

As a Webelos den leader, I took my Webelos (and their parents) on a bit of a tour of some local troops as part of their Scouting Adventure activities. The scouts and their parents ultimately chose the troop into which their scout would bridge (or not). There is no requirement that the pack leadership find a troop for their bridging Webelos, although I personally think that helping the scouts and parents find options is the “scouting” thing to do.

The first thing I would look at is whether there are any girls’ troops in your area, and visit a couple that are feasible. One of our unit adult leaders has a son in our troop and a daughter in another. I won’t pretend it’s easy, given the distance between the units. However, our charter doesn’t have an affiliated girls’ troop, so the choice was move both scouts to the other charter (which has both boys’ and girls’ troops), or just have his daughter join the other troop.

For what it’s worth, while I personally think that coed troops and coed dens are a reasonable option, it’s not an option permitted under BSA rules at this time.

ETA: Spelling…my other arch nemesis…

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The only ‘real’ seperation going into scouts is that the girls have to be registered into a girls troop with their own Scoutmaster… the troops can meet together, they can camp together and advance together, share a chartered partner and have the same committee. I expect that in the not too distant future that the seperate troop requirement will be eased… till then, keep inviting your daughters female friends or assist with a recruitment at the school that encourages girls.

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The newer Cub Program, from what I have seen as an older leader/retread leader, is very academic - though the ‘lesson plans’ for leaders are helpful. We find it mirrors what is being taught in school regarding STEAM, which isn’t horrible but isn’t stellar either. If you ask the kiddos what they want to do (we have) they want to fish, hike, whittle, shoot bows & bb guns, light campfires and camp out. All things that can be done (except the camping out with weather and covid).
Developing an outdoor based program at the unit level is what makes for success. Healthy competition and team building are key. Hiking Mileage programs with monthly planned hikes are one way, bike safety rodeos are another - but takes volunteers who may have the best of intentions yet need guidance on how to do so successfully. The more the children are outside the happier they will be for the most part. The NOVA program is good, but not every family is interested in it - which is ok. Some of the children would rather practice building shelters rather than the math and science behind it all and that’s ok.
As far as den curriculum - I’ve heard parents say a lot of the Wolf program can be done as first grade Tigers and the Wolf stuff could be more outdoorsy orientated, that the kiddos get bored easily.

I’m glad my kids went through in early 2000s before the program changes went into place

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I could not agree more. I was in the middle of the cub program changes. It is very academic and huge chunks replicate the school curriculum to the point where I coordinated with teachers and had them sign off on certain things so our dens didn’t have to do almost the exact same thing twice. We tried to do as much as we could outside or on a field trip. The only good think about the revision was that the first year it included more camping but then they took it out. It is also very repetitive. I constantly had cubs and parents saying “Didn’t we already do this?” Too much Duty to God as well. The cub scout program really needs to refocus on more fun and less homework type stuff. That would help with membership more than anything.

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I totally agree with you. Kids want fun, adventure and to do things hands on. They get enough academics in school. Not to say that there should be no academic support but that isn’t what the kids sign up for. When my kids were in, we had lots of interesting craft projects, wood working and plaster casting. Lots of games and field trips too. Everything was turned into FUN! Even the fund raiser incorporated special pack prize levels of things from the scout catalogue. The result was a near zero dropout rate. If you are where you get snow, a snow sculpture event can be awesome, paint the snow with water and food colors in spray bottles.
Pack hikes, visits to museums and historic sites, attending sports events as a unit, High School, College or semi-pro are all pretty affordable. Packs are only limited by their imagination as to the quality of their program.

I’ve said it on other threads so I don’t want to drone on. I feel like the pack/den system is failing. Parents don’t want to, or can’t, volunteer. Jobs aren’t 9-5 anymore and kids have more afterschool activities. I feel like a switch to Scouting being family led, and having the district host more year round events and camps to help families meet adventure requirements is the way of the future. I am more happy spending what little resources I have available to spend a day or a weekend camping or doing a well organized hands on activity with my kids than I am playing babysitter at a den meeting while parents look at their phones.

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