It was the last Saturday morning in August 2001. Pack 714’s Cubmaster Dennis Moline, pack committee chair Pam Kiley, and Three Rivers District director Jeff Smith surveyed the scene at the Viking Council’s Rum River camp in Ramsey, Minn., with anticipation. The sun was shining on the camp’s 160 acres of pristine wilderness; temperatures were in the 70’s; and 17 of Pack 714’s 30 boys, plus assorted siblings, parents, and adult leaders, had assembled to take part in the unit’s final summertime event—an overnight camp-out.
Since May 5, the pack from Spring Lake Park, Minn., had hosted or participated in 12 summertime events—some council- or district-sponsored, others originating with the pack or its small community just north of Minneapolis.
“Part of the promise of Scouting is getting outdoors and doing fun things, but in a place like Minnesota, sometimes it’s tough to get outside in winter,” said Jeff Smith. “However, in summer some packs have a tendency to slow down, and we really encourage them—through roundtables and other training events—to keep going over the summer, because that’s when good stuff happens.”
Opportunities for fun
Pack 714’s overnight, held at the council camp an hour north of Minneapolis, had a lot of “good stuff” planned. The schedule included five outdoor skills learning stations (one staffed by Boy Scouts from Spring Lake Park’s Troop 498), plus a conservation project, obstacle course, scavenger hunt, nature hike, and some stargazing.
Alex Korte, 9, a three-year member of Pack 714 and a first-year Webelos Scout, looked ahead to that evening’s program. “Tonight we will stay up and roast marshmallows around the campfire,” he said. “Being in the pack is fun in the summer because we go a lot of places and just do a lot of things.”
Pack 714 leadership was aware that other events and pastimes, plus family vacations, competed in the summer for their members’ attention. But that didn’t keep them from planning a full summertime program.
“One of the first things to remember in planning summer events is, don’t worry if you can’t get everyone there,” said Moline, who has been with Pack 714 for six years—two as Cubmaster. “We strive for an attendance of two-thirds or at least half the group.”
Pack committee chair Pam Kiley explained: “We try to have two activities a month. This gives the boys enough opportunities—even with vacations and such—to get to something at least once a month.” Those activities are in addition to Webelos Scout resident camp and Cub Scout day camp, as well as a few favorite, annual “core” outings and a couple of May events tacked on to the pack’s summertime calendar as well.
“What we look for is a healthy turnout that will keep the kids active and also get the parents and the siblings involved,” added Moline.
‘It’s a pride thing’
One goal Pack 714 met last summer—as did numerous other Cub Scout units that pursued active summer programs—was earning the BSA’s National Summertime Pack Award.
The award, which recognizes units that conduct pack activities in June, July, and August, is presented in the form of a certificate and/or streamer for the pack flag; den participation ribbons and individual Cub Scout award pins are also available.
“We encourage every pack to earn the award,” said district director Jeff Smith. “The National Summertime Pack Award is like the Quality Unit Award—a standard for our units to strive for.” In fact, the council hopes a pack will consider earning the award as “a kind of minimum standard to go over and beyond,” said Smith, “because that’s sure to result in a great summer program for the kids.”
Pack 714, which is nearly 30 years old, has a tradition of pursuing the award. “It’s a pride thing,” said Dennis Moline, “especially when the award is presented to the pack. The Cub Scouts usually tie the streamer to our flag, where they can see the award all the time. And our pack flag is decorated with a tremendous number of these awards.”
Pack activity chairman Brian Rogge played a key role in keeping families informed about the summer program. In March of last year, he sent parents the pack’s 2001 summertime events calendar, to post on the refrigerator for easy reference.
The one-page schedule listed dates, costs, and particulars for each event. Some activities, like the pack’s participation in May in Spring Lake Park’s annual end-of-school parade, automatically went on the schedule. The other events and activities resulted from early canvassing of the boys, parents, and adult leaders. They were asked what they would like to do in summer 2001 and how and when they could participate and/or help.
The schedule was one part of a total communications effort that included colorful fliers Rogge designed to advertise some events as they approached. The unit also used e-mails, a telephone tree, and a pack Web site to get out information once monthly pack meetings ended in May.
Fun is a major ingredient (“probably 80 percent”) in keeping boys interested in an event, whether during the summer or at any other time of the year, said Rogge. “If we can make it fun, then they are going to be receptive to the lessons we are trying to teach…the lessons of Scouting.”
David Dominick, Viking Council director of field service and a former Cubmaster, agrees. “Without the fun and the creativity, Cub Scouts can get bored pretty easily, and they are going to go join a soccer team or go play summertime baseball, [which means] they’re going to hang out with buddies who aren’t part of the Cub Scout program,” he said. “So the key is fun.” Fortunately, there’s no question about most summer programs on that front, he added, because “if you have a summertime pack program, there’s going to be fun.”
On the Pack 714 camp-out, Dan Kiley, a first-year Webelos Scout, unknowingly underscored Dominick’s point. Resting after dinner and awaiting the start of the nature hike, the 10-year-old pondered a question put to him: “What would you do with your time in the summer if you weren’t in Cub Scouting?”
“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “I would mostly just sit around and try to think what to do. Like, I’m at home bored, and I know a friend who is in Cub Scouts, and he’s not home because he’s, say, at a parade. I would be sitting there thinking, I should have joined Cub Scouting, you know?”
Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine.
Scouters Share How Summer Programs Strengthen Cub Scout Packs
What are the benefits of maintaining an active summertime pack program? How does a unit develop a strong one? Answers to these key questions are presented below. They reflect the combined responses from a cross section of volunteer and professional Scouters—Steve Johnson, assistant district commissioner, Valle Del Sol District (San Gabriel Valley Council, Pasadena, Calif.); Bonita C. Harmel, Cubmaster, Pack 919, Pfafftown, N.C. (Old Hickory Council, Winston-Salem, N.C.); Bob Bentz, Cubmaster, Pack 500, St. Louis, Mo. (Greater St. Louis Area Council); Tracy Techau, Scout executive (W.D. Boyce Council, Peoria, Ill.); and Darla DiGiovanni, Cub Scout camping and training director (Greater Pittsburgh Council).
Q: Why is it important to have an active summertime pack program? What are the benefits?
- It keeps boys interested in Scouting. Without any Scouting activities over the summer, they tend to kind of lose their focus. It keeps the pack together and shows the boys the fun part of the Cub Scouting program—it gives them the chance to get the first experience of Cub Scouting in the outdoors with day camp programs and hopefully Cub Scout resident camp and Webelos Scout resident camp. It ties the whole program together.
- It provides program continuity. It facilitates the startup of the full operation again in the fall of the year.
- It keeps parents active and interested. They find they can go and shoot archery or play a game with their boy, and have fun doing it. Parents realize, This is a program for me, too.
- Events often involve the whole family. The siblings come along, and parents have the opportunity to experience Scouting with the kids. It gives families a chance to experience what the boys experience during the year. It’s an ideal situation for the entire family to get involved.
- The activities are fun, providing a good time. Summer activities can be some of a pack’s best events. People like to get out in the summer, and parents are always looking for fun weekend activities for their families to enjoy.
- It provides advancement opportunities. By working on achievements over the summer, boys keep the feeling of accomplishment going all year.
- Summer offers great weather. There are some activities a pack can do in the summer that can’t be done in winter.
- Cub Scouting is a year-round program. Boys get the full service of Cub Scouting and the fun and adventure that come with it. On the other hand, packs that have a three-month break during the summer and no activities risk losing the participation of youth and adults, and those members may decide to join other activities to fill the void.
Q: How does a Cub Scout unit develop a strong summer program? What are the necessary elements?
- Plan, plan, plan. Start the planning process early in the year, asking the boys and parents for their input. Announce scheduled activities well before everybody disperses for the summer. (However, simple, last-minute, fun events that require minimal planning and only a few weeks’ notice—like going to a baseball game—are possible. Many families with a free Saturday or Sunday afternoon will welcome the diversion.) Don’t forget to include in your planning any money-earning projects required to support the summer activities scheduled.
- Schedule a series of activities. The boys will try to participate in as many as they can. Have more than one activity per month, because of family vacations.
- Add fresh activities each year. A pack cannot repeat the same program every summer and expect to get the same level of response. However, some packs successfully key in on a couple of favorite annual events which kids and parents look forward to, and the planning for these gets easier each year.
- Include programs offered by districts and councils. Programs like day camp are fun and well planned. They require little preplanning by the pack, other than to organize the boys, decide which week to go, and provide leaders to accompany the boys.
- Enlist parental support and involvement. Certain activities need a lot of parents on hand to help. Pack leaders should let parents and other adults know where and how they can help out. To encourage parental support, ask adults to fill out the Parent and Family Talent Survey Sheet, BSA No. 34362A, as part of the joining process.
- Promote the National Summertime Pack Award. The award is a good indication to pack families and others that the unit leadership is providing a good, quality program for the boys.
The National Summertime Pack Award
Dens with an average attendance of at least half their members at the three summer pack events are eligible for a den participation ribbon (No. 17806). Individual boys who attend all three summertime pack activities can receive the National Summertime Pack Award pin (No. 00464).
If pack members attend a “year-round” school with several three- to four-week breaks during the year, the pack could earn the NSPA by conducting a special pack activity during three of those breaks.
A sample National Summertime Pack Award planning guide (No. 33748A), which includes an application and activities tracking sheet, can be found on page 34-33 in the Cub Scout Leader Book (No. 33221B). Two resources from the annual Boys’ Life Program Planning Package can aid pack leadership in planning and carrying out an active summer program: the Cub Scout Leader Program Notebook (No. 26-001C) and the Pack Program Planning Chart (No. 26-004C).