If you would like a little bit of history about the Journey to Excellence, you can read about it here.
You can find the current Journey to Excellence or JTE forms here. UNPC has forms specific to their LDS units as well as the BSA forms.
So, how can a pack use the Journey to Excellence form as a planning tool? Let’s break down the four major sections and each objective to see what it takes and how a pack can plan for success.
Planning & Budget:
I’m going to split this objective in two… because while the BSA treats them as one here, there really are two different parts. After all, you shouldn’t plan without a budget, and it’s really hard to budget without a plan. See how they fit together?
Let’s say you are creating your annual plan. What do we need to plan to have a great program? Meet with all pack leaders and any interested parents to coordinate and create the pack calendar for the year. Then, share it with all leaders and all parents when it’s done. Do your den leaders have an annual plan? They should too! This JTE form should be the “blueprint” for your year. If you use this to help you plan, you are well on your way.
Budget- Many LDS leaders feel that they don’t have to worry about this. Why should they? Budgeting isn’t just about the total amount; it’s about how and where it’s spent.
Just because you may not control how much you get does not mean you don’t need to have a budget. Once you know your total budget, you still need to plan how and where that money will be spent. Are you using your budget money wisely? You also need to consider what you would like to do. Do we have enough money to cover all that? If not, how else can we achieve our goals or how can we raise more money?
In order to reach gold level, you must have an annual plan created by ALL leaders, a budget, and the pack committee must meet at least 6 times a year (most meet monthly). That shouldn’t be too hard. This is the 1st step to creating a great pack.
Building Cub Scouting- This is kind of a “no brainer”. More Cub Scouts means more fun! Sometimes LDS packs don’t feel like they have any control over the size of the pack. This is not true! Is every boy between the ages of 8 and 10, who lives in your ward’s boundaries (member or not), a registered member of your pack? Probably not. A boy does not have to be a member of the ward to join your pack. Odds are– if he lives in your neighborhood, he is friends with and goes to school with the other boys. Why not invite them all to join your pack?
Retention- If boys are leaving your pack (not just moving out or moving up), then maybe you need to do something different. What is it that they are not getting? We want all the boys to stay in Scouting as long as possible. (Re-Chartering on time helps reach gold for LDS packs)
Webelos-to-Scout Transition- The objective is to “have an effective plan to graduate Webelos into a Boy Scout troop” Does your pack have a plan or is your plan just to “move them up”? For the bronze level the Webelos den should hold two joint activities with the troop (for LDS packs this means the 11 yr old patrol) which just happens to be what is required for the Arrow of Light adventure “The Scouting Adventure”. Part of your plan needs to be to make sure that the Webelos leaders and the 11-year-old leaders are coordinating and planning for at least two joint activities each year to complete that adventure. Do your 11-year-old leaders attend pack meeting when a boy graduates from the pack to welcome him to Boy Scouts? Gold level is reached at 80 percent, but who wouldn’t shoot for 100 percent?
This section of the Journey to Excellence form and it’s five objectives reflect the types of activities we should be doing in our dens and packs. If we are running the program as intended none of this should be too hard. Do we do service, do we take the boys outdoors, to day camp, do we hold our regular meetings and are the boys advancing? This section to me is the easiest section to monitor as well as to change or improve.
Advancement- If we are planning our den meetings around completing adventures (1 per month) every boy who regularly attends should easily advance one rank each year. If a boy isn’t attending often enough then you need to find out why. We want boys to want to come and have fun with their friends and… oh yeah, we passed stuff off too. We want den meetings to be SO much fun they barely realize they are working on advancement. If a boy has other priorities (like sports), it’s still possible for him to advance if he has help and support at home. On the 2017 JTE you only need 75% advancement for gold. (The LDS version adds “and are awarded within one month of earning” – If your pack is meeting for pack meeting every month this should be automatic also.)
Outdoor Activities- This is Cub Scouting! Outdoors is/should be a part of your program. The objective is to conduct outdoor activities and field trips. For gold level each den needs to participate in 5 outdoor activities or filed trips in the year. Thats less than once every other month. That should be doable. And often our service projects or pack activities happen outdoors, so those count too.
Day Camp- We hope every boy participates in a camping experience each year. And realizing that some boys live elsewhere for the summer, or for whatever reason just can’t make it to day camp this summer. Gold level can be reached with only 75% attendance. (Or 50% if that’s an improvement from the previous year). There are some experiences a boy will have at Day Camp that are not provided elsewhere in the program and it’s fun and beneficial for them to see SO many other boys who are Cub Scouts too. Try to get as many of your boys to Day Camp as you can!
Service Projects- To achieve gold a pack needs to participate in three service projects with one of them being conservation oriented AND (this is the part that is often forgotten) report them on the JTE website. If you haven’t reported your service projects online it’s really not very hard. Call your district staff person or district executive and they can walk you through it and give you the numbers/codes you need. 3 service projects a year shouldn’t be too hard. Especially if you pair your conservation one with an outdoor activity like a hike – all ranks need one. Boys need to learn to serve others.
Pack and den meetings- The objective is for the dens and pack to hold regular meetings. Packs should be meeting once a month, every month. Dens should be meeting 2 or 3 times every month also. So for gold JTE you only need 8 pack meetings, dens meeting at least twice a month during the school year, and earn the Summertime Pack Award. This is WAY less than most packs meet. If this one is hard for your dens and pack you probably don’t have enough meetings to meet the other items listed under program either – advancement, outdoor actives, service, day camp. I believe that when it comes to meetings – consistency is key! If the boys and families know that there will be pack meeting every month and den meetings all the other weeks they are more likely to attend. No wondering… is there Cub Scouts this week?
These last two objectives are pretty self explanatory – Do you have enough leaders and are they getting trained? It’s hard to run a good program when you don’t have enough leaders. It’s also hard to run a great program if your leaders haven’t been trained on how the program should work and what resources are out there to help them. There are plenty of great leaders who are overworked (doing 2 or 3 jobs in the pack) and I know there are great leaders who are just plodding along on their own but it really doesn’t have to be that way.
The dens and packs run SO much smoother when there is enough help/people. And even if the leaders are not all “on the same page” when everyone has received the same training at least they are all working from the same book. With the online training there really is no excuse not to complete it. For Gold the cubmaster, den leaders, and pack committee need to be fully staffed and trained.
Point totals and how to score:
In this article I have talked about getting how to get gold in every item. However, you need not reach gold in every item to achieve gold overall. Obviously if you get gold in every item you would be gold overall. You need to look at both how many objectives you earn points in and your total points earned. So, let’s look at a few different examples:
If a pack were to score at the bronze level in all 11 objectives they would achieve Bronze like pack A above. And if a pack gets gold in all 11 they would obviously achieve gold level. But notice Pack B above which scored at the sliver level in all objectives which means they achieved Gold level overall (just barely). So maybe if Gold level just isn’t attainable for you this year – you shoot for more Silvers.
In the above example you can see that both Pack B and Pack C achieved Gold level but in very different ways. Both earned points in at least 8 objectives and had point totals of 1150 (more than the 1050 required for Gold).
And in the above examples you can see that pack E earned points in all 11 objectives and it was enough total points for Silver. And Pack F has the highest point total of everyone but only achieved bronze because they only earned points in 7 objectives. So it’s not all about the points. It looks like Pack F needs to do more service and take more boys to day camp. Become a more balanced pack.
So, there are various way that a pack can achieve gold level. But does every pack HAVE to be gold? Of course not. Let’s say last year you didn’t even know about this and earned nothing. It’s not too late to make a plan for the 2017 year. Or if you already have a plan maybe you just figure out what you will get at the end of the year if everything goes as planned. Are you bronze – maybe next year you try for silver. Silver – try for Gold (or more silvers) Are you getting gold in some areas and 0 in others? Work on those 0 areas. Every pack should try to be more balanced.
Journey to Excellence can help you plan, evaluate, and improve. But only if you know about it and use it throughout the year.
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Author: Annaleis Smith is a stay at home mom of 5 and a Cub Scout leader with over 13 years of experience at the pack, district and council levels. She loves teaching and training others about Cub Scouting. She is currently a cubmaster,unit commissioner, assistant roundtable commissioner and UNPC Executive Board member. Her favorite Cub Scout training, by far, is Akela’s Council.