Planning for the new Cub Scout program just might be the key to transitioning smoothly from the old (current) Cub Scout program into the new. While talking with many of you over the past few months at Roundtables, Cub Scout leader Pow Wows and most recently at University of Scouting, there still tends to be a bit of confusion and apprehension about how we are going to transition into this new program. I have come to believe that the key to this “transition year” is creating an annual plan for each den before the new program starts. Starting the new program with a yearly plan in place, a plan specifically for your dens (and the pack) will be a great benefit for boys, leaders and parents too.
Now before I go any further I need to explain and clarify a little – In this council there are over 1600 packs and over 99% of those pack are sponsored by the LDS Church. So, even though this planning method will work for the traditional packs also, the focus of my comments and advice is to the LDS pack leaders and the way their dens are structured. (This is not my original idea, this is the planning method described in the national Webcasts found at www.scouting.org/programupdates) And I’d also like to recognize that I know there are many leaders out there that will read this and think “Well, duh! I already do that” To them I say “Great, just keep it up and move forward” but for those that struggle with or have never really created a yearly den meeting plan – read on!
A yearly den plan
Many of us, and I have to admit this was my main plan when I was a den leader, tend to run our den meetings according to what the oldest boy in our den needs to complete to earn his rank. How many of you den leaders were told, “Just look at ‘Ethan’s’ book and see what he needs to do.”? Many of us run our dens with this type of plan and while it does work to some degree, this is definitely NOT the best way to run a quality program. When planning this way it’s hard to let parents know in advance which requirements will be done in den meetings and which they need to do at home. It’s hard for the parents to feel confident that the boys are passing off anything in den meetings. As a den leader following this “plan” it’s hard to do it any other way because it seems we are always trying to “get ahead”.
The pack always had a yearly plan for pack meetings but as a den leader my plans were rarely made more than 2 months out. I didn’t feel very much in control of what I did when. It was more of a reaction plan rather than an action plan. How many of you understand what I’m talking about and run your dens in this same way? This year (2015) with the change in the Cub Scout program, we finally have a chance to “break this cycle or bad habit” and create new plans that work. Think of it as a fresh start. This is the year we finally get to do it right!
Imagine creating a plan based on your weather, your school/community events, the interests of your boys and the resources available in your community and ward. Imagine being able to give the parents a calendar for the whole year so they will know well in advance exactly which adventures will be done during which months. Parents then know which electives they are free to do with their family or which adventures to help him complete if “Ethan” misses a few weeks of den meetings. (Families can use adventures as Family Night plans!) Image being a brand new leader and knowing which adventures have already been completed and which are coming up. Good yearly planning can be a win-win situation for all.
Required Adventures First!
Let’s all pretend we are Wolf den leaders and look at some “for instance” situations and how we might start this planning process. Okay, there are 6 required adventures to earn the Wolf rank. Schedule them into your yearly calendar first. Decide which month might be best suited to which adventure. You probably don’t want to schedule “Paws on the Path” during a winter month since it is about hiking. (At least not in most of the Utah National Parks Council. I’m sure there are other places where you can go hiking in the winter.) In some places, even within our council, the summer months can be very very warm. So, in our pack (this imaginary one that we all belong to right now) let’s say we decide to do “Paws on the Path” in September. And through a similar thought process we schedule the rest of the required adventures into the months we choose for them. Once all the required adventures have been scheduled, we go back and fill in the remaining months with elective adventures. With 13 elective adventures to choose from you are sure to have a fun year round program for the boys to participate in. Which elective adventures we choose will depend not only on calendaring issues but also on the interest of the boys, the capabilities of the den leaders, the local events, resources and more.
Planning for a Bear den would be very similar to that of a Wolf den. Plan your required adventures first and then fill in the remaining months with elective adventures. Both the Wolf and Bear ranks have 6 required adventures – 2 of them are “Duty to God” adventures that could be passed back to the families to complete at home or they could be completed together as a den. Decide which and be sure to include or exclude them from the plan as necessary. Remember, each time they complete an adventure they earn the corresponding adventure loop. No more waiting until their rank is earned before they can be awarded for those electives. Since most adventures are designed to take 3 den meetings, every boy will have the opportunity to earn an adventure loop every month, no matter where he is on his rank progress. Once you have an individual den plan that works, stick to it. And keep it for a while – years even. Occasionally you may swap out some elective adventures but once you have a set schedule that works for your pack – go with it! Knowing well in advance which adventures will be happening during which months will help boys advance, parents support, and leaders plan.
What about Webelos?
In the Webelos year the advanced planning is even more important so that you make sure that all boys, no matter which month they enter your den, get the opportunity to earn both the Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks. (In and LDS pack boys will earn both within 12 months) Between the 2 ranks there are 9 required adventures – 2 of which are “duty to God” adventures. If we ask the families to complete the Duty to God adventures at home. We are down to 7 required adventures – just one more than the Wolf & Bear dens. Again, schedule these required adventures first, using the same method and considerations as the Wolf and Bear dens did -the local weather, resources, events, etc. Then fill in the remaining months with electives. (I personally would try to plan alternating Webelos, Arrow of Light and Elective adventures, because that’s just what makes the most sense to my brain, but you might find another way that works best for you.) And remember both the Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks share the same pool of 18 elective adventures, so depending on when their birthdays are, some of your boys may count an elective adventure towards his Webelos rank while others may count the same elective adventure towards their Arrow of Light rank.
*Update – With the modifications made November 2016 (read more about them here) it should be even easier to schedule everything. Some adventures require less time to complete and Webelos and Arrow of Light require less adventures to earn rank.
So, what if your pack has a combined Wolf and Bear den? Planning may get a little bit trickier but not by much. Many of the Wolf and Bear adventures have very similar themes. Let’s take the Wolf adventure “Paws of the Path” we talked about already – it’s about hiking remember. Well, in the bear adventure “Fur, Feathers and Ferns” the bear den also needs to go on a hike. Both ranks have adventures that include preparing something to perform at a campfire program. Both ranks have adventures that include a trip to your local police or fire station. Even if you have separate dens you may want to coordinate and combine for field trips when both dens need to go to the same place. There may even be times you can combine trips with the Webelos den also. You can start now to familiarize yourself with the required and elective adventure requirements and make your own plan. Whether you alternate Wolf and Bear adventures or meet in separate corners of the gym to work on similar adventures or work on completely different adventures and get together for games at the end. LDS den leaders have been finding a way to make it work for years and we will find a way to make it work with the new program also.
Den leaders will certainly want to coordinate with each other and with the Cubmaster too, so that field trips and other requirements that might have a pack meeting element to them – like the need to participate in a campfire program – can be planned for and scheduled accordingly. Just like now, the boys will still have a part to play in pack meetings with displays, songs, skits, and more.
Can you see how starting a new program on June 1, 2015 gives us the chance to start fresh and create our own plan that works from year to year? No more just working on whatever the oldest boy needs. With a yearly plan that covers all the required adventures and enough elective adventures too, every boy can advance. All a boy needs to do is show up and have an adventure. Planning for this year, while boys will earn their ranks with some portion of the old requirements and some portion of the new requirements, starts a plan in motion that will be good for the boys, parents and leaders for years to come. Two more important things you need to keep in mind when creating your annual plans – Journey to Excellence and the LDS Faith in God program – but those topics should be a blog articles themselves. (Look for them soon)
Making an annual plan now will set us up to be an even more successful pack in the future. There a saying… “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. We don’t want to fail these boys. They deserve the best adventure we can provide. So, do your best to make a plan!
The March CubCast is also about planning for the new program.