Purposes of Cub Scouting
|1. Character Development||6. Respectful Relationships|
|2. Spiritual Growth||7. Personal Achievement|
|3. Good Citizenship||8. Friendly Service|
|4. Sportsmanship and Fitness||9. Fun and Adventure|
|5. Family Understanding||10. Preparation for Boy Scouts|
I’d like to take a look at some of the reasons WHY Cub Scouting is important and relevant as well as HOW we achieve those purposes and I’d like to start at the end. (Why? Just because…) So lets start with…Cub Scout Purpose #10—Preparation for Boy Scouts
First let me say that I do not want anyone to think that I am saying that a boy MUST be a Cub Scout first in order to make a good Boy Scout. That is obviously not true. There are many great Boy Scouts who were never involved in Cub Scouts for one reason or another. But let’s think about those Boy Scouts who WERE Cub Scouts first and talk about how that program helped prepare them.
HOW does Cub Scouting prepare Boys Scouts? There are very likely more ways than just these 12 that I have thought of and listed here. Feel free to leave your ideas and additions in the comment section at the end.
- Scout Oath & Law – One of the most obvious ways that Cub Scouting helps prepare a boy to be a Boy Scout is directly due to the change last year (2015) to One Oath and Law. Cub Scouting now gives a boy years of preparation in that regard. In a Cub Scout pack each month one of the 12 points of the Scout Law is used as the focus. Each week at den meetings boys should be reciting the Scout Oath and Law. Each Cub Scout must first earn the Bobcat rank—two of the requirements of which are to
“Learn and Say” the Scout Oath and Law. Each handbook has multiple pages explaining the meaning of the Scout Oath and each point of the Scout Law in kid-friendly language. Each handbook has multiple “Character Compass” highlights that help these young boys understand how they can apply the points of the Scout Law into the particular requirement or activity they are doing. The Scout Oath is a model for good citizenship and the Scout Law is a list of positive values to live up to and incorporate into your daily life. It just seems obvious that their years of repeating and talking about the Scout Oath and Law will help prepare boys to be Boy Scouts.
- Cub Scout Adventures are sort of like merit badges. In Cub Scouting there are various adventures. Some adventures are required and some are electives. Each adventure has multiple requirements and each one should take some time. When a boy has completed that adventure, whether it is done with his den, with his family, or by himself, he should be awarded the accompanying adventure loop or pin (depending on rank). These completed adventures lead him towards earning his rank. There may not be merit badge counselors involved (yes it is a different process) but I believe that by completing adventures he is taking the first step towards knowing how to earn Boy Scout ranks as well. It’s a process that increases in demands and complexity according to his age. It’s a process that helps him know what to shoot for—the end goal, and what is required to reach that goal. In Cub Scouting a boy has 1 year to earn his rank (exclusive of the Bobcat Rank) and hopefully he will learn a little about deadlines and goal setting while working towards his rank each year. In Boy Scouting the deadlines might be much further out and a bit more customizable but his Cub Scout experience should help him understand how to set goals and give him some skills to set the goals needed to attain the rank he’s shooting for.
- Personal Responsibility – A Cub Scout who for years has been required to keep track of his uniform and his handbook and wear/bring it to den meetings (Moms, please let him do this himself!) is a Boy Scout who will be used to wearing his uniform and know where his handbook is so he is able to bring it to patrol meetings too. Now there is a catch, they need to use it at den meetings often enough for them to feel the need to bring it. If they bring it and never use it, soon they will stop bringing it and it will get “lost” somewhere in their rooms. So leaders, have the boys use their books at den meetings. Have them refer to something in them often. One of the great things about the new handbooks is that the Scout Oath and Law is printed on the back cover for easy reference while they are learning it. Maybe it would be better not to have a poster at the front of the room for everyone to see, maybe it would be better if each boy had a need to bring his own handbook. Reading the back cover is not enough, have them look inside, encourage them to read what Ethan (The new Cub Scout “mentor”—not sure that’s the correct term) has to say about the adventure they are working on this month. Ask them what the requirements are to complete the adventure—it’s in their books. Odds are they can (and should) take on more responsibility than they currently do.
- Leadership – In Cub Scouting there are 2 basic leadership positions that each boy should get a chance at —Denner and Assistant Denner. The duties of the Denner are determined by the den leader. And his assistant is usually just a back up in case the Denner isn’t there, but the assistant could certainly have his own set of responsibilities. Think of the specific duties that you, as a den leader, assign to these boys. Do the boys know what you expect them to do? Do his parents know that he is serving as the Denner and what his duties will be? These are very young boys and most likely they will need reminding, coaching, and help but odds are these young Cub Scouts are capable of more than we, and they, think they are. A Denner in a Webelos den will do more than the Denner in a Wolf den and that’s as it should be. The duties assigned may even vary depending on the individual boy’s abilities. A boy can learn leadership in other ways as well—ask a boy to be a team captain for a game, or have a boy teach another boy a skill he has already mastered. Learning to lead is an important skill, the beginnings of which can be taught in Cub Scouts. A boy who learned the basics of leadership in Cub Scouts will better understand his role in the Boy Scout Patrol.
- Buddy System – Cub Scouts who have been taught about the importance of the buddy system at a young age will be Boy Scouts who are used to doing things with a buddy. In Cub Scouts there really isn’t a whole lot that actually requires them to have a buddy (Tigers have the advantage here with their Tiger Partner) but there are many ways to teach about and use the buddy system. When hiking or swimming of course it is best to have the boys pick (or assign them) a buddy. Of course first you need to teach them about WHY they are safer with a buddy through lots of “what if” scenarios. Then they need a chance to practice also. When you are taking the boys on a hike and they have been assigned a buddy, do you as the leader do a “buddy check” every so often to reinforce the idea? Do you have activities or play games where you split the boys into teams of two (buddies) to accomplish a task together. Some boys get lost in a den of boys and may not get a chance to express them selves but in a twosome it’s much harder to fade into the background and just watch. The buddy system isn’t just about safety, it can also teach teamwork, friendship, and how to be a part of the whole by still being an individual. Somewhat indirectly it helps boys understand Two Deep Leadership. Their leaders need to have a buddy at every meeting. A leader’s “buddy” is there not just for safety but as a helper, a back up and of course to help share the load of planning and teaching (teamwork).
- Citizenship – All boys are part of a family. Large or small he usually understands what a family is and what part he plays in it. Odds are he has never been told he is a “Citizen” of his family but essentially he is. In Cub Scouting boys are placed in dens. Ideally dens should be a group of 6-8 boys, similar in age, working towards the same rank. Each pack is made up of multiple dens. In Cub Scouting he learns how being a part of a den can help (or not) the pack as a whole. Cub Scouting gives boys opportunities to be a part of a small community – his den, which is part of a bigger community – his pack, which is chartered by an organization, which is part of his local even larger community, etc.. There are of course requirements (see examples to the right) in many of the adventures that are Citizenship building activities. Boys this age are just starting to learn that there is a world out there and that small changes can and should be made for the greater good. Cub Scouts who know and understand the structure of Cub Scouting will more easily understand the structure of Boy Scouts—troops, patrols etc… and how they as an individual and as a group can help the communities in which they live. This helps them understand the “Duty to Country” part of the Scout Oath they repeat weekly. And of course regular flag ceremonies and learning about the proper care and use of the US flag is a must for every citizen and will be second nature to a Boy Scout who was first a Cub Scout.
- Service – Cub Scouts, as with all Scouting, have many opportunities to provide service— service to their families, service to their den, service to their chartering organization and to their community. Cub Scouts in their own small ways can even help provide service to the world. Service should be a regular part of every scouting unit. Giving service to others helps with the previously mentioned citizenship as well as the “to help other people at all times” part of the Scout Oath. (Here is a really great article about this very phrase) The new Cub Scout program has even more service opportunities than before to help boys grow and learn and become the kind of young man/scout the world needs. I wrote another article all about the service opportunities, with a helpful chart of requirements for The Boy Scout last fall. Cub Scouts who are used to participating in den or pack service projects will be better prepared to fulfill the service hours required in Boy Scouting.
- Cub Scouts Belong – This is part of the above mentioned Citizenship and yet it’s different enough I thought it deserved a separate mention. As written on page nine in the Cub Scout Leader Book, “Belonging is important to boys; they like to be accepted as part of a group. In Cub Scouting, boys take part in interesting and meaningful activities with their friends, learning sportsmanship, citizenship and loyalty. The Cub Scout uniform, symbols like the Cub Scout sign, and being a member of a den help boys feel part of a distinct group that shares a common purpose.” Cub Scouting gives a boy something worthwhile and positive to belong to. Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting is about the individual boy but… he is not in it alone. There is always someone there to help in one way or another and that’s a great life skill to understand too. We are not alone! Cub scouts who know what it means to belong to a den and pack will understand what it means to belong to a patrol and troop.
- Duty to God – Not only is Duty to God a part of the Scout Oath but in the new Cub Scout program one of each the 7 adventures required to earn a rank (Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Arrow of Light) is a required Duty to God adventure. Each boy is required to learn about, practice and show what it means to do his Duty to God. No matter what religion or what a boy and his family believe about God, he is taught to fulfill this duty to the best of his ability. When a Cub Scout becomes a Boy Scout he will already understand this vital part of the Scout Oath. He will already have had opportunities to explore and express how he feels he has done and can continue to do his duty to God.
- Outdoor Experiences – Hiking and Camping are some of the most notable parts of Scouting. Cub Scouts do them first. For some boys their first camping trip may be because of the new adventure requirements for Cub Scout Camping (You can find a chart with those requirements here). For some boys, Cub Scouting may introduce them to parts of nature and the outside world that they never knew existed. There is something special about being out in nature, seeing all the various parts of nature and learning how they all fit together and affect each other. I know many a Scout who will readily tell you that some of their most spiritual and profound realizations happened while on a camping trip. But it’s not just about camping and hiking, it’s about going outside. Of course It’s always better to ride a bike outdoors and kite flying is usually hard indoors too. So while some things must be done outdoors, I think it’s fair to say that just about everything is more fun when done outside. When we eat outside we even give it a special name—a picnic. And while a campfire program technically could be done inside with a fake fire, it will never quite measure up to the real thing. Boys love to be active and sure you can have relay races in a gym but when you take it outside every boy is faster. Who knows, the boys might even think it’s fun (or at least funny) to play video games outside. The Wii version of skateboards and skiing is nothing like the real thing (Not that I am saying those activities are allowed in Cub Scouting – see the Guide to Safe Scouting for further guidance on appropriate activities). Cub Scouts who have learned about the outdoor code, leave no trace principals, the essential items to take on a hike, who have been camping and spent time in nature will have a much better time on those Boy Scout campouts and other outdoor activities too.
- Do Your Best – It’s the Cub Scout motto and a part of the Scout Oath too. Each boy is only required to do his best, not his leader’s, not his parent’s nor that of another boy—HIS best. This will vary with each boy and that’s okay. This is where the individual boy really comes into play. When we teach a boy at a young age that competition is fun, it does not define his worth. So one boy can’t throw a ball as far as another, or run as fast as another. That’s okay. Each boy has his own set of strengths and weaknesses and individual traits that make him… well, him. The more a boy learns these lessons as a Cub Scout less bullying and teasing there should be in the Boy Scout troop. When he joins Scouting a boy is part of a den/patrol, a part of a team. And while teamwork and cooperation are important, in the end it truly about the individual. If each individual learned to work hard and always do their best, everyone would be happier individual and as a group.
- The Scouting Adventure – In the new Cub Scout program one of the required adventures that a boy must complete to earn the Arrow of Light rank is called “The Scouting Adventure” (I wrote an article in The Boy Scout about this last fall too). The main objective of this adventure is to introduce a boy to Boy Scouting. In this adventure he learns about merit badges and what it takes to earn one. He learns about the patrol method and what it means to have a “Boy-led program.” He observes and participates with a Boy Scout troop (twice) which will most likely get him excited about this next step in Scouting. It’s quite obvious how just this one adventure, out of the many a boy will have during his Cub Scout years, helps prepare a boy to be a Boy Scout.
WHY is Preparation for Boy Scouts one of the purposes of Cub Scouting? First let’s state the obvious—the BSA wants boys to stay in the program. It helps with recruiting, retention and let’s face it, keeps the program alive. But let’s set aside the corporate or business aspects of it and it still makes sense that the younger boy program—Cub Scouting—should help a boy do better in the older boy program—Boy Scouts. Its part of the natural progression. As a boy gets older he can do more things and so he is required to do more. He is capable of more so those requirements get harder. It’s all about the boy from young to old (and even older as a leader too) to fulfill the mission of the BSA which 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” and the Vision Statement of the BSA as well: “The Boy Scouts of America will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.” What city, state and country would not want that from their citizens. The boys in Cub Scouting… that’s where it starts! So, yes, Cub Scouting prepares a boy for Boy Scouting and for life.
So, If Preparation for Boy Scouts, given all the ways that is done, was the only purpose of Cub Scouting, I still think it would be a great program. But it isn’t; there are 9 other purposes besides just this one. Next time let’s talk about the Cub Scout Purpose of… Character Development.
Author: Annaleis Smith is a “stay at home” mom of 5 (3 boys). She has been a Cub Scout leader (Cubmaster, Den Leader, Roundtable Staff & more) for over 12 years. She is currently a Cubmaster (2nd time), a Unit Commissioner and Assistant Council Commissioner for Cub Scouting in the Utah National Parks Council.