Scouters weigh in: Should den meetings include work on rank advancement?

When Den Leader B.R. asked how much den meeting time should be devoted to advancement requirements, readers ranked working on achievements high on their list for planning meetings.

My den worked on advancement for about half the meeting, then had time for a craft or game. We worked as a group on achievements and electives, showing boys who were not encouraged at home how to work together.

We worked like that until they reached the middle of the first-year Webelos Scout program. Then we started letting them do things on their own because they knew what it took to accomplish a task.

Troop Committee Chairman J.R.,
Galion, Ohio

Every den meeting should include a little advancement, a little program, and a lot of fun. If you use advancement work as the only activity, you will run out of things to do at den meetings. On the other hand, if you don’t cover any advancement requirements, many boys will never advance.

I found a mix of one-third advancement, two-thirds other programs works best.

Helper, Utah

I’ve found there are tortoises and hares in every group, and I plan accordingly. I try to make both the Tiger Cubs and their parents responsible.

I put Tiger Cub requirements into all our den meetings, “go-see-its,” and camp-outs. I write a monthly newsletter called “Tiger Tidbits,” outlining the month’s activities and plans for the future.

As we near blue and gold dinner time, when our pack likes to present advancement badges, I make a progress report for each boy and family showing what the boy has completed and where he needs to catch up. If necessary, I’ll plan a “make-up” meeting for the boys who are lagging.

Tiger Cub Den Leader L.B.
Sebastian, Fla.

Den meetings should be for achievements and electives. This is the time to work with Cub Scouts and parents in a team effort.

We assign “family-only” achievements as homework at the beginning of the program year. On the Bear trail, the religious requirements and family ones like Family Fun and Family Outdoor Adventure are done at home. The rest are done at den meetings.

It’s great that some parents work at home on other achievements, but boys who don’t have involved parents need the den meeting structure. Boys who have already completed requirements for an achievement can become helpers, which teaches them leadership skills.

Aurora, Colo.

If parents think that most achievements will be done in den meetings, they may not work with their boys at home. Mixing up meeting plans and staying away from a fixed format are good ideas, and early in the program year I prioritize games and fun. [It’s no accident that one of our most helpful resources is theCub Scout Leader How-To Book (BSA No. 33832A).]

However, during the month before the blue and gold banquet, and also the month of May, you may have to focus on achievements during den meetings. Just don’t overdo it.

Webelos Den Leader S.Y.
Little Rock, Ark.

I faced similar concerns as a Bear den leader, and I found that it is essential to do some things as a complete den—the Pledge of Allegiance and Cub Scout Promise, have a snack, etc.—but for some things you have to divide up the den.

The den leader and assistant should have a plan for every meeting and work as a team with the same goals. A den chief can be a real asset. He could be working on electives with boys who have earned their Bear badge while the adult leaders work with the others on achievements.

South Jordan, Utah

All den meetings should be designed so that boys can earn one or more advancement requirements. We keep parents informed what will be done at each meeting and what needs to be done at home. Our Cub Scouts usually earn their badge of rank by the December pack meeting, allowing them to work on Arrow Points after the holidays.

Urge Cub Scouts and their parents to find something to do in their Cub Scout books one evening a week. This keeps them interested and involved. It will also prepare the boys to advance in Boy Scouting.

Assistant Den Leader A.G.
Sharon, Vt.

You should use the amount of time necessary for the boys to advance and still keep the meeting interesting. In my son’s pack, the den leaders usually have two advancement activities going on during den meetings. When a boy completes one requirement, he goes on to the next.

The den leaders also have games and other fun activities so that the boys have fun while they’re learning.

Pack Committee Chairman D.R.
Stafford, Va.

Having been a den leader, I know how difficult it can be to get some parents involved in their son’s advancement.

In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to use den meeting time for advancement work. But if the Cub Scouts are going to earn their badge of rank by the blue and gold dinner in February, they need to do a lot of advancement work in den meetings.

Cubmaster B.W.
New Alexandria, Pa.

The activities that are required to earn achievements, electives, and miscellaneous awards are fun and make great den meeting events.

At our den meetings, early arrivals work on electives or belt loop requirements. The main meeting activity is work on an achievement or miscellaneous award.

I want my Cub Scouts to grow up with good memories of Scouting. It matters not whether they earn their badges entirely at home, at camp, or in den meetings.

Den Leader L.O.
Pflugerville, Tex.

I believe that part of every den meeting should be dedicated to advancement work. In our den, we tried to reserve a third of the meeting for den business and ceremonies, a third for advancement, and a third for games.

This worked quite well for us, and the boys not only gained a sense of accomplishment but also had fun.

Den Leader J.C.
Columbia, Md.

As a Bear den leader, I found that more advancement work needed to be done at home than was true for Wolf. After every den meeting, I sent parents a note to identify requirements that the Cub Scouts should work on at home.

The boys were able to finish all achievement requirements as well as 10 electives before our winter holiday break. All 10 Cub Scouts received their Bear badge and first Gold Arrow Point at the pack’s awards night in January. For the rest of the program year, the den worked on various electives.

Chicago, Ill.

Den meeting planning is critical. Early in the year my den’s parents are told that achievements involving religious training, ethical/personal safety, and family-related activities are to be completed at home.

Each den meeting focuses on the remaining achievements. Usually we finish only part of the achievement with the understanding that the rest is to be finished at home.

Finally, we take a lot of field trips related to advancement requirements.

Broomall, Pa.

I had the same experience as B.R. Three Cub Scouts in my den worked on advancement with their families, but for the other four, their books were not opened between den meetings.

We ended up doing parts of many achievements at den meetings. We got families to volunteer to coordinate parts of requirements at future den meetings and informed parents which ones should be done at home. This got the parents and Cub Scouts working together.

San Lorenzo, Calif.

I was a Bear den leader and a Webelos den leader for five years, and I found that working on advancement was a good use of time. The Bears who wanted to work on achievements at home focused on requirements we didn’t cover at den meetings.

For the Webelos Scouts, we did most of the activity badges at den meetings. The two we did not cover were Handyman and Traveler, which are best done at home with the family.

If a boy wanted more, I suggested that he work on activities in the Sports and Academics program. There are more than enough activities in those programs to keep even the most interested Webelos Scout occupied.

Cubmaster C.W.
Pattersonville, N.Y.

I use about half of the den meeting time on activities for advancement requirements. I also mailed a newsletter to keep parents informed on what the boys needed to do at home before den meetings.

Den Leader J.R.A.
Encinitas, Calif.

Things work best for my Wolf den when I dedicate 30 minutes to advancement and the remaining 30 minutes to electives, games, crafts, and snacks.

I have a system of planning each month’s activities around a section of achievements with a game or craft included each week.

Den Leader B.C.
Valparaiso, Ind.

Den meetings should be planned to include some advancement work. The den leader should schedule activities which keep the boys involved, interested, and engaged, and which require them to do some “homework.”

I planned my year using Cub Scout Program Helps. I gave the boys and parents a monthly newsletter so they knew what to do at home. Parents must be committed to make sure their boys do some individual work.

Den Leader P.Z.
Nazareth, Pa.


  1. We work on advancements about half the meeting then work on a fun elective that would include a type of game or craft. that way the boys will each have some electives that they earned. It seems to work well even for those boy who’s parents aren’t really involved with the boys.

  2. Yes! I know there are many other fun things to do, but so many boys lose out because their parents don’t have the time or resources to help them accomplish all the things involved in rank advancement. Even though I have been a den leader and I have had 5 boys in the scouting program…with 9 children at home it was so nice to have someones help with their advancement projects. So my vote is YES, work on advancement at meetings as well as themes.

  3. I plan all of our Den meetings around achievements. Either a rank achievement, or a belt loop. With each meeting we also have homework for the boys to do which reinforces what we did at the meeting, or has the boys earn an achievement/belt loop requirement.

    This really has worked well this year. In addition to their Bear badges the boys have earned several belt loops (hiking, map and compass, Ski and Board sports), and now at the end of the season are working toward earning their Leave No Trace award.

    This is not to say that we don’t also have lots of fun at our meetings. There is always time in the meeting for a game, feats of skill and strength and the ever popular – skit for the Pack meeting.

    Rob Kosman
    Pepperell Pack 55

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