In her four years as a Cub Scout leader, Sara Banks had often heard that packs should remain active over the summer. But in Pack 555 in Midland, Ga., all that happened in June, July and August was sending boys to Cub Scout day camp and Webelos resident camp.
As part of her Wood Badge ticket, Banks set out to change that situation. Last summer, at the end of her second year as Cubmaster, Banks held two monthly activities — double the number required for the Summertime Pack Award. In June and July, she led meetings that mostly focused on STEM activities and elective adventures; in August, she held an outdoor movie night and an ice-cream social that doubled as a fall kickoff event.
“I think the kids had a really good time. The parents were appreciative,” she says. And when the new program year kicked off last fall, boys who had participated had plenty of stories to share with friends they hadn’t seen all summer.
Banks shared her keys to success — and what she’ll do differently this summer.
Setting a Schedule
Leading up to summer, Banks polled her active families to see whether they would prefer to meet on Tuesday nights — when the pack usually meets — or on the weekends. “We stuck with our Tuesday nights in June and July,” she says. “Then in August we did Saturday activities.”
She also took into account potential conflicts. “We avoided Memorial Day; we avoided the Fourth of July. We made sure whatever week the kids were at day camp, we didn’t meet,” she says.
Of course, families had other conflicts, including vacations. While it’s impossible to avoid every issue, she says it helps to publicize your summer schedule in the spring (or even earlier), while you still have most people’s attention.
Summer is a great time to get out of the church basement or school cafeteria and try different activities. It’s probably not such a great time to keep doing what you did during the school year or to start on the next program year’s adventures with just a handful of boys.
Banks chose to concentrate mostly on the Science Everywhere Nova Award, which was also the focus of the district’s day camp, as well as on some electives the boys hadn’t finished.
“There are so many activities that are in the books aside from the adventure loops and the electives that we don’t tap in to,” she says. “They don’t take a whole lot of planning and can be incorporated so easily into any basic activities.”
Pack 555’s summertime activities attracted only rising Wolves and Bears, and Banks asked their den leaders to participate, as well. She didn’t ask them to plan any activities, however.
“Since they’d already been planning all year long, I felt like it was a good break for them to not be asked to plan more than they already had,” she says. “So I took on the responsibility of planning everything I wanted to accomplish over the summer.”
She also leaned on pack committee members to ensure plenty of adult coverage at each activity.
“I had some committee members and parents that didn’t mind stepping up and helping,” she says. “Every leader didn’t have to be there every week.”
Banks says her biggest disappointment was not attracting Webelos Scouts last summer, something she hopes to remedy this year. “My biggest goal will be to bring the Webelos in, which I don’t think will be a problem since the Bears are my biggest group,” she says.
She’s also revisiting her schedule to see if Saturdays might work better.
“We were asking people to come out at 6:30 p.m. in the middle of the week in the middle of the summer,” she says. “That might not have been the most popular thing to do.”
Whatever she decides, Pack 555 will definitely not take the summer off again.
“The kids had such a good time that we will definitely do it again this summer,” she says.
The Summertime Pack Award
While most boys don’t need any incentive to have fun, the Summertime Pack Award offers a good way to recognize those Cub Scouts and dens that remain active over summer break. To be eligible, all your pack has to do is hold one activity per month in June, July and August.
Several recognition items are available. The pack earns a streamer for the pack flag (No. 17808) and a certificate (No. 623014). Each den with attendance of at least 50 percent earns a den participation ribbon (No. 616254). Each youth and adult pack member who takes part in all three events receives a pin, which can be worn on the right pocket flap of the uniform shirt (Tiger, No. 14332; Wolf, No. 14333; Bear, No. 14334; Webelos, No. 14335).