|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|
What does it mean to be a good citizen? How can Cub Scouts (ages 7-10) be good citizens? And how can we as Cub Scout leaders help them? I don’t think boys will care much about citizenship very much until they actually understand that they are a part of something and feel like they are important too.
First, I want you to notice that its not just citizenship—it says good citizenship. Like I talked about in my Respectful Relationship article, Cub Scout-age boys are part of a family, school class, church class, sports team, etc, and helping them see how they are a part of a bigger whole can help them start thinking about what it means to be a citizen—a citizen of their town/city, state, country and of the world. Citizens have a responsibility as individuals to the whole. When we go on a hike we don’t leave our trash, not only because we don’t want to pollute the environment but because we want to leave nature beautiful for the others coming along after us. If each person picked up and took care of their own trash on the trail, what a nicer trail (or park, or school, or local rec center, whatever) it will be for everyone.
Being a good citizen often means we learn about our community (be it local or state or country) and how it came to be. Who worked hard and sacrificed for us to have what we have today? Who continues to work to keep our town/state/country thriving and enjoyable? But the BSA doesn’t want Scouts to just sit and learn about it; let’s leave that to the school teachers. The BSA wants the boy to learn participatory citizenship. That means we need to find way for them to participate.
How can Cub Scouts participate in citizenship? The first thing that came is that every time they say the pledge of allegiance at school or at Scout meetings, they are participating in that because they are a citizenship of this country. Same thing applies if they have a school motto or pledge that they recite—just like the Scout Oath and Law indicate that they are citizens of Scouting. And similarly, they can help provide flag ceremonies for PTA meetings, city council meetings etc. Many communities have annual flag retirement ceremonies that can be very moving. Spanish Fork has one every July (Kick off for Fiesta Days) and they let the boys help with the ceremony. This is participatory citizenship! Food drives, clothing drives, raking a neighbors leaves… there are many ways to be a good citizen. As I list things it seems that I am listing many of the same things I did when I wrote about friendly service. Giving service is a great way to be a good citizen. Learning and living by the Outdoor Code and Leave no Trace principles are ways to be a good citizen too.
One thing that I think we as Cub Scout leaders need to be sure to teach the boys is how to fold the US flag, how and when to properly salute it, and how to display it properly. Because if we don’t teach it to them… who will? Years ago, everyone seemed to know when to stand and put their hand over their heart, but not so much today. We need to teach the boys proper flag etiquette so that they can teach their families and set the example for others. This is part of being a good citizen.
Not only should we find ways for them to participate, but we should point out the participation of others. A kindergarten teacher at our local elementary school is the wife of our current mayor (just pointing this out because sometimes its different when it’s someone you actually know). She has made a difference in our boys who attend that school. They feel like they have a connection to the mayor and seem to wonder more about what he does as mayor. His wife told me that they attend a lot of Eagle courts of honor. In fact, local government personnel should be among those you might want to invite to your blue and gold banquet. Learning how the police and firefighters are an important part of the community is citizenship.
I also think Cub Scouts need to understand that you don’t have to be a part of something big to be a good citizen. The little things they do to help their family and neighbors is of great worth. We need boys to grow to be the kind of men that do great things.
What have been some of your favorite participatory citizenship activities with your Cub Scouts? Share your ideas with us in the comment section below.
Author: Annaleis Smith is a “stay at home” mother of 5 children (3 boys, 2 girls). She has been a Cub Scout leader (Cubmaster, Den Leader, Pack Trainer, Roundtable Commissioner, Akela’s Council 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.