Nature’s riot of fall color contained an unusual amount of orange one October Saturday afternoon at Camp Warren Levis in southwestern Illinois.
All that extra orange in the landscape had impressive mobility, too, since it came in the form of shirts worn by Tiger Cubs eager to search for, discover, and share the surprises at Tiger Cub Family Day.
There’s a good reason to have a lively event soon after signing up first graders for the one-year Tiger Cub program, said Tim Schwartz, district executive for Cub Scouting in the local council.
“After roundup, it might take a while for Tiger Cub dens to get organized,” he explained. With Tiger Cub Family Day already on the calendar, “they have something to keep up the excitement and interest.”
Each Tiger Cub arrived with at least one adult partner—a parent or other adult over age 18. In many cases, a Tiger Cub’s mom, dad, and siblings all came along to play at this fun-for-all event.
A passport to adventure
First stop: Kids chose a paint color and sat still to have a tiger nose, whiskers, and optional paw prints painted on their faces, earning them their first tiger-and-cub stamp in their orange Passport to Adventure.
The passport listed each activity—”face painting, hayride, ice cream, apples, games, cookies, crafts, maze”—just hints of what was in store along the camp trail.
This was the place to knock down bowling pins with an unusual ball—a small pumpkin. Even toddlers could do it. It’s where kids figured out how to bite an apple hanging at the end of a string (no hands allowed). It’s where they decorated cookies with frosting, colored sprinkles, miniature marshmallows, chocolate kisses, and M&Ms.
“I made a castle,” said one Tiger Cub, displaying his edible work of art.
“I like to see the big eyes when they go ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh,'” said Joan Montgomery, volunteer coordinator of Family Day. “We look for things that build character, that are essentially fun but safe.”
Montgomery has plenty of experience in children’s activities; she’s an elementary school physical education teacher and has been the council’s Cub Scout summer camp director for five years.
“All kids like to participate in games that build skills,” she said. “Kids like to be challenged.”
Some a-mazing tunnels
One popular challenge was the maze, a crawl-through labyrinth with differently shaped tunnels; the most surprising were small and triangular. Troop 86, Collinsville, constructed the maze inside the camp’s Winter Lodge.
What did it take to create an intricate pathway from cardboard appliance boxes? “A lot of duct tape,” joked Dean Herberts, 13.
“It took a lot of creativity, too,” said Josh Klaas, 14.
Inside the maze, it was fairly dark but not scary; in fact, most kids emerging down a small slide said, “Can I do that again?”
John Meckles, 7, found a candy bar suspended from the ceiling of a dark corridor. “This is my lucky day; I’m definitely lucky here,” he told his mother, Sandy Meckles.
Their Tiger Cub den, from Pack 126, Godfrey, had already met, and parents had chosen activities to lead in the coming year. “In the next two weeks,” Sandy Meckles said, “we’re doing Scouting for Food.”
Tiger Cub Coach Karen Tilashalski waited while her son Kevin Schrader, 6, went through the maze. Their den is with Pack 81, Maryville.
“We’re so glad Scouting is a family activity,” she said, “because we all enjoy it so much, and we sure make a lot of friends this way, too. Kevin’s glad he finally made it to Tiger Cubs, after watching his brother in Cub Scouting.” His brother had just become a Scouts BSA member.
‘A great thing for the family’
At pumpkin bowling, words of encouragement could be heard from Scouters of Troop 48, Collinsville, and Tiger Cub parents. “Get a strike!” “Good shot!” “All right, Sis!”
Karen and Robert Dare, with Tiger Cub twins Matthew and Joshua, 6, and their sister Candice, 7, strolled along the trail after knocking down some pins. Their den, from Pack 5, Wood River, had been in a Halloween parade that morning, wearing their orange shirts with tiger tails and tiger tooth necklaces they’d made at meetings.
“Tiger Cubs is a great thing for the family to do together,” Robert said.
Troop 27, Edwardsville, was running the apple-on-a-string game and serving apple slices baked in foil and apple cider. Assistant Scoutmaster Steve Kossakowski remarked, “It’s fun to get out and show Tiger Cubs what Scouting is about.”
In front of the Winter Lodge, kids were making vanilla ice cream in a novel way. Standing by an orange teeter-totter, they raised and lowered one end of it, causing a large coffee can to roll back and forth. Inside was a smaller can containing ingredients, with ice and rock salt packed around it.
The coffee-can recipe came from a PBS show, but the teeter-totters were the addition of Jim Bott, assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 77, Alton. His busy helpers were his family—his wife, Annette; son Andrew, 16, a troop member; and daughter Abby, 13.
“The last instruction in the recipe,” said Andrew, “is ‘be patient.'” Since the process took longer than young kids would want to work, after a few minutes of labor, they sampled some ice cream from a previous batch.
Sampling fun — and the future
Family Day accomplished several objectives. “Parents are involved with their children, not on the sidelines like at a soccer game,” Montgomery observed. Families new to Scouting became acquainted with the camp. Adults met leaders, Scouts, and other volunteers who gave their time to put on the event. Tiger Cubs saw Scouts taking responsibility and having fun.
“Having older Scouts around helps them see a future,” said Montgomery.
With more than 100 Tiger Cubs attending (about one-third of those in the council), it was a typical turn-out on a busy fall weekend.
“We’ve done what we set out to achieve,” said Tim Schwartz, “that’s to give them a good intro to Cub Scouting and exposure for the camp. It’s right for the age-group; we hit that on the mark. Everyone leaving says they had a marvelous time.
“We want kids to feel they’re definitely getting something of value, that Cub Scouting is an awesome, year-round program to belong to. Lots of things to learn, share, and experience with their families. This is just one way to do it.”
Scouting magazine contributing editor Suzanne Wilson lives in Joplin, Mo.
In other councils…The Same (Excitement), But Different (Approaches)
Many Scout councils across the country stage a special Tiger Cub activity early in the fall. While the goals are similar—to energize Tiger Cubs and adult partners for the program year and introduce them to other elements of Scouting—the process and procedures vary from council to council.
Tiger Cub Fun Day (Southwest Michigan Council, Kalamazoo)
“We’ve done it so long, it falls into place,” said Laura Lyster, Pathfinder District Cub Scout training chair and Fun Day coordinator. The Saturday afternoon event, hosted by Pathfinder District and open to all council Tiger Cubs and their adult partners, provides den training through lively activities.
The late September 1999 event at Camp T. Ben Johnston, Rota-Kiwan Reservation, featured three round-robin program areas, each illustrating one of the 17 Big Ideas from the Tiger Cubs BSA Family Activity Book.
For “Go and See It,” kids and adults visited an authentic Cheyenne tepee and talked with a living history presenter portraying a mountain man of the 1800s. They played children’s games of the period and watched a flint-and-steel fire-making demonstration.
For “Family Games, Tricks, and Puzzles,” they made paper airplanes, colored them, flew them through hoops, and had airplane races, kids vs. adults.
For “Getting to Know You,” each Tiger-adult pair made a scrapbook from poster board and wallpaper, then filled it with pictures and words describing each other’s favorite activities.
At the end, each den met to plan their meetings, month by month.
Tiger Growl (Central Florida Council, Apopka)
“Gr-r-eat Games, Tigerific Family Fun, Tiger Growl Campfire”—that’s what the flier for this late November event advertises. It’s the first get-together for Tiger Cub dens, the kickoff for their year of adventure, held at Camp La-No-Che at the Winn-Dixie Scout Reservation.
Families can tent-camp Friday and Saturday nights or come for just the day-long Saturday program, says Kathy LaBar, the camp’s administrative assistant.
Families are grouped in patrols, with round-robin schedules for activities.
Everything is geared just for fun. There’s BB and archery target practice, a “space walk” on a huge air bag, a dunk tank with a Scouter volunteer willing to hit the water, a magician, fingerprinting by Explorers, a police DARE-program exhibit, and a forestry department display. Then there’s the Tiger 400, a footrace with kids carrying large, three-dimensional cardboard race cars.
At the evening campfire, Tiger Cubs each get a furry tiger tail to wear, to show they’ve completed Tiger Growl.
Tiger Cub Voyage of Discovery (Daniel Boone Council, Asheville, N.C.)
“You can get Tiger Cubs excited right off the bat by saying, ‘Hey, we’re going camping at the end of September,'” said Kay Thorp, volunteer coordinator for this overnighter at Camp Tatham. The event is open only to Tiger Cubs and their adult partners.
“We have three other Cub Scout-and-parent weekends open to the entire family,” Thorp explained.
“The Tiger Cubs are on the edge of a brand-new and exciting world. Archery, the BB range, going to a campfire, sleeping outside—it’s all new to them,” he said. “There wouldn’t be that sense of discovery if older siblings were there who had done it before.”
The program, which begins Saturday afternoon, includes field games, a nature trail, crafts, and a Tiger Cub trading post with items featuring cartoon character Garfield, Cub Scouting’s official Spokescat.
The camp has cabins with electricity as well as tent sites, so campers have their choice. Thorp says evaluation sheets revealed that most of the parents enjoyed “just spending time with their sons.”
And Just Wait Until Spring!
In Trails West Council, Tiger Cub Family Day is a fun way to begin nine months of family adventures. But there’s a grand ending to the year, too.
In the spring, the council puts on a “graduation” party at a church in Edwardsville. The building is filled with activities and games with trinkets for prizes, and there’s a Tiger Cub graduation cake. Families can come and go at times that fit their plans that day.
Changing for the Better
Trails West Council’s Tiger Cub Family Day has evolved over the years, with each change designed to make it easier for families to attend.
“It started as a summer Tiger Cub activity,” said Diane Keith, the former volunteer coordinator for 10 years who has observed the event’s transformation. “Then we decided on fall, a better time when more people could come.”
Other changes include:
- At first, Family Day was held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but as soccer became a major activity in the area, families needed to be at Saturday games. The council switched to an afternoon event, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., so people with morning games could attend.
- Participants used to follow an assigned round-robin schedule, but soccer and other activities meant everyone couldn’t arrive at the camp at the same time. Organizers turned to a “free-flow” pattern; families start at any station they choose, at any time during the afternoon. Their only assigned time is for the hayride.
- More Scout troops are involved. The council sends out a general invitation asking troops to volunteer to run events. Troops and leaders bring in fresh ideas for games and clever ways to make the maze.
- Apples and pumpkins remain traditional parts of the fall festival theme, but someone is always likely to come up with a great new idea, like 1999’s teeter-totter ice cream and Tiger face-painting.
Whatever form it takes, Tiger Cub Family Day is a great welcome to Scouting and to Camp Warren Levis.
“I wanted them to know how to get to camp,” Keith said. “Next year they can be a bigger part of the camp scene. We want Tiger Cubs to feel as much a part of Scouting as anyone else. Our biggest goal is to move them up the chain, to become Cub Scouts, then Webelos Scouts, and then Scouts BSA members.”