I had an incredible time at Akela’s Council 32 in June 2016. I feel like I learned so many things that I can apply to so many different parts of my life!
Anyway, I sat down tonight to try to put into words what I took from Akela’s Council, as an article that could be posted. Three pages later, I decided I better stop even though I felt I had only scratched the surface!
“So you are taking three days off work, using your paid time off, to go to a Cub Scout training where you will be camping outside in June in Southern Utah?” I will admit, as Akela’s Council grew closer, and I finalized the arrangements to ensure my children would be situated while I was gone, I had more than a few moments where I found it difficult to explain to others what I was doing.
I even had a few moments where I questioned myself, “Do I really want to do this?” and “What had I gotten myself into?” So, before I tell you exactly what I got out of Akela’s Council and how worthwhile the experience was, let me tell you a little about myself before I went.
When I take any personality test, the results show I am the one that likes things organized. I like to be involved; I like things done the right way the first time. I am busy, so when I arrive, I want things done efficiently and thoroughly. Excellence is a standard I live by. So, when I became involved with the Cub Scouts, I took all of these traits, “strengths,” as I believe them to be, and applied them wholeheartedly to my volunteer service:
Pack Committee Meeting this week, let me get the agenda together. Pack meeting this week, let me arrive early and help set up. Roundtable, check.
Every aspect of Cub Scouts had a to-do list that I could check off. The adult in me thrived with the structure and everything I could “check off” my list, proving to myself that I was effective and my talents were being put to good use.
Fast forward to Akela’s Council. I will admit, the first day was a bit disorienting for me. We had name tags, so everyone greeted me by name. That was really nice, actually. There was a lot to do and a lot going on, which was a bit overwhelming. Everywhere I went though, someone was there pointing me in the right direction and helping me along. I was directed to my “den.”
Yes, I was assigned to be with 8 other adults in my den with our very own den leader. And by the way, the den flag goes with you everywhere. This was really going to be an “immersion” experience. I was going to “live” the experience of being a Cub Scout.
The camp opened with a flag ceremony, which was really nice. I loved the comments made before we said the pledge. I even teared up a little as various people spoke about being a citizen and the benefits of living in this great country. It was touching, and helped me remember the patriotism I felt when I was younger in school learning about the constitution and our founding fathers. As it turns out, each morning there was a different flag ceremony, each just as touching, some short and some longer.
By the end of camp, I was really committed to taking those inspirational flag ceremonies home. I was committed to making each of my own pack’s flag ceremonies special. Even a short thought before saying the pledge really gets you out of the “mundane routine” of the task and reminds you to be mindful about what you are doing. That was something I wanted to bring back to the boys I work with. What a great way to teach patriotism. Right from my first moments at Akela’s Council, I was experiencing parts of the program that I wanted to take back to my own pack, to make a better program for the boys I serve.
Before long, we were right in the middle of training. Some sessions were with our den leader back at our camp site. Besides basics, like what a den and pack are, and what type of meetings are part of the Cub Scout program, there were other sessions on a variety of important topics. Sessions covered topics like working with people of different personalities and different ideas.
There were hands on experiences. We were given a short time to prepare an actual den meeting, and camp leaders would come and act as the youth and actually participate as we led the meeting hands-on. We learned about the leader guides, how to go about planning, how to work with other leaders, the importance of a plan B (backup plan). As a committee member, I had not had a lot of experience with what actually happens at a den meeting, or what goes into planning such a meeting. It opened my eyes to what the leaders do, and how I might be a better support to them.
Group training caught me off guard. Right from the start, group training involved crazy and fun costumes, and skits from well-known shows. There was no limit to the creativity of the skits: Mission Impossible, Finding Nemo, Minions, Up, etc. Skits included all the really fun kids shows our children watch a million times, but really are still well loved, even by adults.
In the middle of all this fun and craziness, more important topics were presented. We learned how to avoid the “dark side” of Scouting by being mindful of your own family, spouse, children, and budget that affect your family. We were prompted to involve Scouts with disabilities. The positive value emphasis and how to involve that in planning was incorporated. The list goes on and on.
What really struck me about this method of teaching important topics skit after skit was that while we were in training from 8 AM to 10 PM with few breaks, at times when I normally would be feeling burned out and ready for a break, I was still able to pay attention.
The skits were fun, the costumes were funny, and when I thought I might be done for the day, I found that I really could still pay attention because it was so much fun. And if ALL those adults could dress up and be a little crazy, and have a LOT of fun with the audience, surely I could do the same! After experiencing how easy it was to pay attention when there was FUN involved, I saw the value of using skits, costumes, and a little bit of craziness with a lot of fun when working with the boys in my pack. I learned how to capture someone’s attention by making things fun.
Before coming to Akela’s Council, I thought I was pretty well read in Cub Scouting techniques. I purchased the Leader Book and the Leader How To Book within the first month of being involved with Cub Scouts. I’ve been through the ceremonies book, attended Cub University, and been to several roundtables. I was aware of den doodles, den flags, den cheers and songs. But again, these were things that I knew about but was not actively using with the boys. I dismissed them as fun but not essential. At Akela’s Council, these things were a huge part of the fun!
We each created a doodle about ourselves and got to present it to the pack. I took great pride in the creative process of putting together something that represented the most important things in my life. I found it was fun to listen as others presented about their doodle and their interests. They brightened our den flag we took everywhere. As we came up with our den cheer and song, it felt awkward at first. By the second day, it was becoming habit, and a bit of a competition with other dens. By the end of camp, it was really a source of pride and helped me feel like I truly belonged to my den.
With kids today facing bullying, broken homes, and so many other challenges, can we really overlook the importance of helping boys feel they are important, valued, and a part of a group? It really hit me just how important this is!
The people in my den had developed that cheer together, we each contributed to it, and it represented what we, as a group, wanted to express about ourselves. It was very empowering. As we completed tasks at camp, more decorations were added to our flags. We finished our “service den” duties,
Another den got a decoration for completing a task. You better believe we worked all the harder to make sure we also got that! It opened my eyes to the importance of immediate recognition the Cub Scout program teaches. Want boys to work towards advancement? Get those cards or belt loops to the boys right away when they finish an adventure. Want the boys to wear uniforms and bring manuals? Put together a den doodle where the boys doing those things are rewarded with a bead or trinket for the den doodle. Actually living the program gave me personal, first-hand experience with the power of the techniques that are suggested in all those manuals. These suggestions aren’t trivial and unimportant. They are a big part of the fun, motivation, and even the power behind the program.
Three and a half days of training from sun up to sun down passed faster than I expected. But I can not even begin to tell you how much I gained from this experience. I wish I had been able to have the experience 15 years ago, before my first daughter was born; I really feel that I learned things that I can use in my family, with my own children. The more I think about what I have learned, the more I realize these principles can be applied to so many different aspects of my life.
It helped me realize the importance of fun– not only when working with boys, but even when working with adults. I was reminded of the importance of patriotism. I recognized the value of working with others because a team effort really does have better results! I had forgotten how fun kick ball was, and the importance of outdoor activities, even when it is hot outside. I had hands on experiences with every aspect of the Cub Scouting program, and could experience, hands on, why each part of the program is important. I could see the value behind the fun.
What did I get from Akela’s council? Friends. A sense of belonging to something important. A reminder of how important fun is, and how powerful it is!
It is so much easier to learn and pay attention when you are having fun. I learned how to better work with others, how to better interact with both adults and children. I have learned more things than I can begin to explain.
It will sound trite, but our world has so many big problems, so many disagreements, arguments, and problems; After spending a few days at Akela’s Council, it really strikes me that the Scouting program is all about making better people, who can help make a better world!
I am so grateful I was able to attend Akela’s Council. It was worth the cost, the travel, the time away from family and work, and everything else that was given up so I could attend. Truly, I think this is the kind of experience everyone needs to have.
Author: Megan McCourt | She is a bear den leader, with Pack 396, in the Trapper Trails Council. At the time she wrote the article, she was committee chairman, Pack 403,Utah National Parks Council.