Boxes, Books, People...
By Suzanne Wilson
Help is all around when Cub Scout den leaders want to prepare the ultimate den meeting.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”
When a new Cub Scout den leader, or even an experienced one, asks for advice about planning den meetings that will hold the attention of a group of active, energetic, inquisitive Cub Scouts, the answer often starts with the above statement.
It means that if you’re a den leader, you don’t have to start from scratch and figure out every detail for each meeting. That’s because you have all kinds of support from the moment you say “yes” to serving in one of the most enjoyable volunteer jobs around.
Support comes from several sources:
Let’s look more closely at these, in reverse order.
Fun in a box
It’s a time-saver, a lifesaver, and a rescuer of den leaders who approach the end of a busy day thinking, “Now what am I going to do with my Cub Scouts tonight?”
It’s Den Meeting in a Box, an assortment of exciting activities related to Cub Scouting’s recommended pack theme of the month. Den Meeting in a Box is the latest addition to the array of resources that help den leaders put on the best, most hassle-free den meetings ever.
This surprise package bursts open for fun. Inside, there are 10 copies of the same colorful booklet for the boys in the den. Each booklet contains factual and fun information, puzzles, games, a story, stickers (and pages to stick them on), and instructions for making something fascinating. Boxes may contain craft project materials, too.
There’s more. Take last March’s weather-related “Baloo Skies” box: Each boy received an emblem sporting a red kite in a blue sky to add to a patch vest (not included in the box but available separately, No. 55291), and a plastic-encased thermometer to attach to a jacket’s zipper pull.
“I call it ‘fun in a box,’” says Tiger Cub den leader Jesus Alvarado of Pack 32, chartered to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, Tex. When the den opened their first box, “It was a hit, and the boys loved it. Parents saw how easy it was to use.”
Alvarado adds, “It frees up my time.” He notes that one parent can lead box activities with the Tiger Cubs while he talks with the other parents about future events.
Moving between the box resources and the monthly theme’s suggested schedules and activities in the BSA’s publication Cub Scout Program Helps, is “a seamless transition,” Alvarado says.
Pack 3, St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Urbandale, Iowa, has been using Den Meeting in a Box since its introduction.
“It hit with perfect timing,” says committee chairman Dave Kvitne. “It was promoted at training and at the district roundtable, and we picked up on it and got involved in it.”
Tiger Cub, Wolf, Bear, and first-year Webelos Scout dens have each used the boxes.
At $37.49 per box (about a dollar per Scout per week), the cost was not an obstacle for the pack, Kvitne adds. The pack includes the expense in its annual budget as a vital program resource, making sure the money to pay for the monthly packages is part of the pack’s annual money-earning projects.
“We’re also having each den pay a little bit for its kit,” Kvitne says. “That way they develop a sense of ownership.”
Each monthly Den Meeting in a Box can be purchased or ordered at local Scout shops or online at www.scoutstuff.org. (The activity booklets can be purchased separately, for $1.99 each or 10 for $14.99.)
Along with the materials in each month’s box, Pack 3 den leaders also use ideas from Cub Scout Program Helps and the Cub Scout Leader How-To Book, Kvitne says. “Here are the books; here are the boxes; go through them; ask questions….Just follow [the ideas and advice],” he tells the leaders.
Hit the books for ‘Helps’
Think you don’t have time to read a book? Take a look at Cub Scout Program Helps, which contain pack and den meeting schedules and program ideas for an entire year.
Cub Scout Program Helps are available to pack and den leaders in several ways.
Webelos den leaders will find similar help in the single volume Webelos Leader Guide (No. 33853C). It has den meeting plans for each month. The plans are based on a designated activity badge rather than on a pack theme.
Cubmasters find Cub Scout Program Helps to be a most valuable tool as the agenda for pack meetings, from before the meeting through the closing ceremony. Ideas are provided and built around the theme of the month. The pack meeting complements everything the dens have been working on.
On the “Den Meetings” page of each monthly segment of Cub Scout Program Helps is “the grid,” as the book’s authors call it. It contains four weeks of den meeting plans laid out from beginning to end, with a balance of lively and quiet activities. A helpful notation points out when an activity will satisfy an advancement requirement for an achievement or an elective from the handbook.
Diane Cannon, volunteer program enrichment chairwoman for the National Cub Scout Committee and a former den leader, says a leader may use an entire meeting plan or adapt it, keeping some activities and plugging in others.
“Every den has its own personality,” she says. “You just learn what they’re going to like to do.”
On the “Activities” page, you’ll see the details of the ceremonies, crafts, games, snacks, and songs in the plans.
“For new den leaders, Cub Scout Program Helps can seem like it’s welded to their hand during their first year,” says Cheri Pepka, chairwoman of the BSA’s Cub Scout Program Helps Task Force.
Experienced leaders use the book, too, for new ideas.
Who are the writers of this annual package of program ideas? They’re 13 Cub Scouting volunteers from across the country. Nearly all have been den leaders. “They’re always asking, ‘If I had my den here, what would they like to do?’” says Pepka.
They start with the monthly Cub Scout themes and divide the writing, working far ahead. This fall, they’re starting on the 2009-2010 edition.
Need help? Just ask
Where else can a den leader look for assistance? Just ask someone for help.
In fact, that’s exactly what we did, in asking Cub Scouters in the Minsi Trails Council of Allentown, Pa., for tips to pass along to den leaders.
“The biggest resource is networking,” says Sandy Brueningsen, Cub Scout training chairwoman for South Mountain District. “Go to [monthly] roundtables, and in the breakout session for your type of position, ask other people for their ideas. Everyone will want to help you.”
Gary Brueningsen, Sandy’s husband, also a trainer and a former Cubmaster, says: “Plan the meetings, plan the activities. Kids will pick up if you haven’t planned. They kind of smell your fear. If you know you have a good solid plan and a good pace to the activities…the kids will stay involved and focused.”
For an endless source of advice, he recommends the Internet as “a great resource.” Whether you search for topics like “ceremonies,” “Dutch-oven cooking” or “pinewood derby,” you’ll find page after page of information.
Ask an experienced leader to help plan a couple of meetings, says Lisa Wagner, a trainer in Trexler District. “Plan enough activities for an hour and a half, even if it’s only an hour meeting,” she suggests, “because sometimes things take a lot less time than you think they’re going to.”
She also advises creating a “rough sketch” of the year, planning around the boys’ handbook to make sure they cover requirements for advancement.
Tim Lambert, a district commissioner in Forks of the Delaware District, is a former Cubmaster who has led many pack meetings. “I’ve seen a lot of skits, a lot of songs, a lot of craziness,” he says.
His advice: Get the adults involved. “The kids love to see their parents go up there and act silly as well,” he says, noting that when a leader or parent is in a den’s skit, the boys lose some of their shyness.
Charlie O’Connell, training chairman for Pocono District, says den leaders need to know they’re not alone, not expected to do it all by themselves.
“There are lots of great people out there who are good resources, and all you have to do sometimes is ask. Everybody wants the boys to succeed; that’s the one thing you’ve got to keep in mind.”
Contributing editor Suzanne Wilson is a former den leader who lives in Joplin, Mo.
ON THE WEB: For past Scouting magazine articles about pack and den meeting ideas, go to www.scoutingmagazine.org/index.html, hit the "Search" link at the top of the screen, then click on "Cub Scout Program Activities" in the topical index list.
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