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Why the focus of the Cub Scout program needs to change

What’s the goal of Cub Scouts. It’s not to do the requirements. The goal is all the life skills the Scouts learn while doing requirements.

We did Marble Madness this week. It was badly designed to meet the goals of the program of belonging to a den

My three Bears picked to do a marble maze as their fourth requirement. I didn’t tell them how to do this. The exact requirement is “make a marble maze”

Nowhere in it is there a requirement to actually play a game with marbles. Nowhere does it say you can’t do this activity alone.

They went and got supplies on their own. They came back to where they were working and together came up with a combined maze as a team.

I don’t know about you, but to me that they did nothing that a marble could have gone through was besides the point. I’m signing them off because of how they did the work. They showed maturity for their age.

And that’s the problem with the cub scout requirements today. It’s too focused on the subject of the requirement and not the act of learning as a den.

How do we turn these requirements into one that meets the goals of Scouting

  1. Learn about the history of marbles and terms used to describe marbles
  2. Play one game of marbles as a den, as described in a book or online.
  3. Make up one game of your own design as a den and then play it
  4. Design a marble maze or obstacle course as a den and run marbles through it.

It fills more time and it creates an experience with marbles as a den.

I’m going to show two in the same adventure from Wolf.

  1. Tell what the buddy system is and why we always use it in Cub Scouting. Describe what you should do if you get separated from your group while hiking.

What is missing from that? If you’ve been in enough years it already came to you.
It talks about the buddy system and doesn’t have them learn how to stick with a buddy by picking one on an activity.

That’s a huge hole in their growth.

The requirement should be

Tell what the buddy system is and why we always use it in Cub Scouting. Describe what you should do if you get separated from your group while hiking. Go on an activity with your den or family and choose a buddy to do this activity with. Stay with your buddy throughout the activity.

It also naturally expands the topic outside of Scouting, like going on a bike ride with a friend and not alone in 2nd grade.

You’ve obviously given this a lot of thought and are passionate about it. I’d suggest you look at aligning your thoughts with the stated mission, aims, and methods of the BSA and Cub scouting as follows:

“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

There are four aims of Scouting: citizenship, character, personal fitness, and leadership.

The methods of Cub Scouting are: living the ideals, belonging to a den, advancement, family involvement, activities, serving the community, and the uniform.”

After a decade as an adult in both programs I can say with certainty that the advancement program is the biggest turn off for Cub Scouts.

If you take the themes and rethink them around doing the topics and not the requirements exactly as written Scouts stick with the program.

Families don’t join for the advancement program, they join for the type of activities the program does.

I have nothing against the topic of the program, I wouldn’t be more than a decade in if I didn’t, it’s the implementation of Cub Scouts. One big problem is it assumes the program isn’t shrinking, nothing has been adjusted for smaller units to better serve them.

We have a 20 page program plan that tells what every age is doing every meeting, with supplies needed so don’t think I haven’t thought through planning in depth. We started our 2020-21 planning in February and it’s not a committee meeting, it’s a parents meeting where everyone is invited. We do surveys of every parent and adjust based on feedback.

We are one of the poorest communities that still has a traditional cub pack in our council. We kept EVERY family who was still with the pack after the cost increase was announced except One. One Pack near us folded last spring, another is on the cusp within the next year (only one scout currently below 4th grade, we’ve already talked with their COR to invite them to come to ours). That would leave one high school zone with three packs serving it, down from five in 2018.

One major issue is there’s no cross age advancement that works very well. With units growing ever smaller on average it’s more and more common you can have one 1st grader and two 2nd graders. Mixed dens are allowed especially for girls but how do you do advancement? If they work on Adventures in Coins the 1st grader earned Nothing officially for advancement despite doing the work.

The Lion program has nowhere near enough topics for a Scout who goes to every meeting an older sibling does, I ran out of book activities to schedule for this age long before meetings.

The program needs to shift to everyone electives. They complete tasks to their age so a pack of 7 kids can do one activity and they all earn it. Each year you earn one brand new elective all the same still. The phrase Do My Best means the same requirement can work for every age designed the right way, and maybe a 1st grader does three and a 5th grader five requirements.

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Kevin, I must agree with the spirit of your 2nd post. When the “new” program was introduced a few years ago it was a nightmare. What was an easy to follow program became a logistical hurdle (Bears: big top one is the worst). I was a Webelos Den Leader at the time teaching the same stuff I learned as a Webelos scout and suddenly everything changes, and not just a name here or there but in some cases a full re-write.

My pack is in the same situation with small dens because parents don’t want to be Den Leaders. We had FIFTY (50) new scouts sign up in September-kids in every den except Lion girls. Less than 15 really “joined” and we rechartered with 21 including existing members.

Four years ago my son’s den had 12 boys and each year a couple dropped out because they were bored with the program. Last month only 4 who were left earned AOL and joined Scouts BSA.

I look at today’s Webelos requirements and compare them to what I had as a scout (my handbook was printed in 1982, based on 1967 requirements). Even with the 2016 revisions, the requirements today are much harder. Same is true for Wolf & Bear ranks. Combine that with busy (sometimes single/divorced) parents who typically both work, siblings of multiple ages going in different directions. multiple activities/sports, it’s no wonder that many are turned off to Cub Scouting. The time commitment is simply too high. Attrition between Cub Scouts & Scouts BSA is high because kids are getting burned out. Adults are also getting burned out.

Our current Cubmaster has 2 boys, 1 AOL, 1 Wolf. Her AOL scout will cross over but is not planning to continue scouting and the Wolf is not interested in continuing either next year. Thus, we are losing our Cubmaster. Eyes have directed towards me to assume the role, but I’m already Committee Chair, Fundraising Chair, Advancement Chair, and Assistant Den Leader. I don’t want to do it, and yet, I look at our roster of parents and I do not see anyone else that serves as a natural fit for any of the positions.


We lost our last two cubmasters at the start of 5th grade for their Scout. (2017, 2019) Our new Cubmaster is way more interested in how we do things and the program.

The pack plummeted from 70 Scouts to 7 in three years before I joined. They lost focus on having a program.

We nearly folded in winter 2017. I made the program plan myself. We didn’t have a bank account until December when I forced control out of the treasurer’s hands, she didn’t return calls and I got the account number from her which with the charter org’s help gave me enough.

I learned for all of 2017 that not a penny was raised, no one even signed up the unit for popcorn fundraising. No wonder they didn’t do anything.

I joined and the then committee chair basically became cubmaster and I took his role. I give him credit, he was there enough to keep us going for two years. Did the training and all that. Was there for two deep needs.

I’ll save the details but we were able to change the unit culture into one of spending money where it made sense and having fun activities. I hand out budgets at every parents meeting and no one who sticks with it has complained one bit about the expenses because we show where the money goes.

I lost a few over the switch from free to mandatory dues, I came out bigger when I did because the kids have a better experience. We have spent between $3500-4500 in two years on the program.

One pack near us folded in spring 2019. Another is on the cusp, I would expect they don’t recharter for 2021.

I started out this year by telling all parents it’s a group effort. We need help and no one will do it all.
Then let’s say my den leader is gone for one age on week. I will go up to the other parents and let them know I need someone to work with that age, leave, and let them figure it out.

Someone will step up. If you have a good plan they will either figure it out or they will ask someone else for help. That’s how you get volunteers.

Of our 15 Scouts this spring only 2 were with the pack in fall 2017.
Every den is larger than the year before except one. I have five den leaders showing up to nearly every meeting. Half the pack shows up to parents meetings, and they could easily skip.

We don’t have den meetings, everyone comes to the same place on the same night, does flags and maybe a game together and then splits up and work as dens. It means the one 1st grader can still have fun vs having their own meeting they’re alone at. I can share adults across ages in a pinch. Webelos need to teach a fitness skill, borrow the Kindergarteners!

We don’t have den activities, we have pack activities monthly. I’ve got really good at finding hikes that work for all ages with looping trails.

We don’t have pack meetings with awards and announcements, we have activity nights for everyone

It reduces demands on time. It reduces demand on adults. It’s possible to complete every rank this way

I’m finding I have way less work in my third year because I’ve built a model that works. We’re growing, we’re more active, we’re having more fun.

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For our pack its all about the scout moto, DO YOUR BEST. As a parent, den leader or cub master who would sign off on these activities, its somewhat subjection-able. Cub Scouts for us is all about team work, effort and personal pride. Did they work well with others, did their best, get the spirit of the activity? If so, they get signed off on that activity. Its all about being more sociable while learning a great lesson that they will take with them thru tomorrow, next week, next year and thru life. It sounds like your scouts did a great job and fulfilled the “spirit” of the activity.

I think there is a social issue at work here. The program changed when my son was a Webelos and I think it got better. Previously it seemed EVERY pack event the same question was ask. “What pin can the scouts earn?” I even recall seeing on a forum someone complaining that Cubs wouldn’t shoot BB guns because the award had gone away. As if an award had ever been the reason cubs like shooting.

I think one relatively easy way to fight this would be to push the “Aims of Scouting” more. Have every adult gathering recite the Scout Oath, Law, and Aims of Scouting. End every adult gathering with recitation of the Aims of Scouting.

When I speak to parents about program I nearly always bring up the aims of scouting. I believe the answer the declining membership is easy to state and hard to put into practice. Less sitting and more doing. Less concern with what is learned and more with how to discover.


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