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:
- ?Helpful, knowledgeable people, including those who staff your council and district training courses, monthly roundtables, yearly pow wows, and other training events.
- At the unit level, pack trainers provide a wealth of knowledge on pack and den operations, training opportunities, and orientation for new leaders and families.
- BSA literature, from the annual versions of Cub Scout Program Helps (BSA No. 34304C) geared to each year’s schedule of monthly pack themes, to the time-tested ideas and projects in the Cub Scout Leader How-To Book (No. 33832A; also available in Spanish, No. 30539), and other BSA publications.
- The latest resource for den leaders, the new Den Meeting in a Box. Introduced in September 2006, each month’s edition contains program ideas and the necessary materials for conducting a month’s worth of den meetings.
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 atwww.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.
- An annual edition, featuring meeting ideas and activities for the 12 monthly themes beginning in September, is available for purchase at local Scout council service centers, Scout shops, or atwww.scoutstuff.org.
- ?Cub Scout Program Helps for three or four months are bound into copies of Scouting magazine (except the October issue) sent to Cubmasters and assistants and den leaders and assistants.
- ?Cub Scout Program Helps for the current and next month are available in
portable document format—pdf—files at www.scouting.org/cubscouts/resources/34304/index.html. Separate pages in each monthly chapter in the annual 12-month edition include plans and activities geared specifically to Tiger Cub, Wolf, and Bear dens.
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 towww.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.
Immediate Help for New Den Leaders
The New Cub Scout Den Leader Kit (BSA No. 13-134C) is provided by local Scout councils to new Cub Scout leaders in the fall of each year to help them get their units off to a successful start. It contains:
The local Scout council adds one flier with training dates and locations and another with information on council camps and dates for day camps, resident camps, and family camps.
One Council’s Plan to Provide Leaders With Online Help
Den leaders everywhere wish for a simple way to prepare meetings that will be exciting and fun for their Cub Scouts. In New Jersey, the Patriots’ Path Council is using the Internet to provide leaders with some solutions.
This fall, their “Den Meetings Made Easy” will go online. Any den leader in the council may watch and listen to a podcast of instructions and ideas based on Cub Scouting monthly pack themes and the material in Cub Scout Program Helps.
The Internet resource is the latest evolution of a program the council rolled out last September, a monthly box of program supplies created independently by the professional council staff. They are similar in concept to the new national Den Meeting in a Box program.
In introducing that program, the council wondered what kind of impact it would have on keeping boys interested and involved in Cub Scouting.
To find out, they had 60 leaders in the Raritan Valley District use the boxed instructions, craft materials, and other fun items for an entire program year. Evaluations, on a scale of 1 to 10, averaged above 8. And by early March, a large majority of dens were keeping most of their boys.
At that point, the council decided to redesign the concept for this fall, making Den Meetings Made Easy available online to all den leaders.
Both programs were made possible by grants from the BSA’s Northeast Region.
Training Is Indispensable
Fast Start training is available through a link from most local council Web sites tohttp://www.olc.scouting.org/index.html or in DVD format (BSA No. AV-01DVD22) from their pack or local service center. Programs include The New Tiger Cub Den Leader, The New Wolf/Bear Cub Scout Den Leader, The New Webelos Den Leader, The New Cubmaster, and The New Pack Committee Member.
A viewer’s guide that supports Fast Start training can be borrowed from the pack or the local council or downloaded from the Cub Scout Division Web site.
Basic Leader Training is a half-day session you attend. It has two parts:
Volunteers can attend supplemental training, including events like the monthly district roundtable, where veteran leaders share their experience and ideas for use with the upcoming monthly pack theme or special activity; the annual district or council pow wow, featuring sessions on games, crafts, skits and puppets, ceremonies, and much more; and a university of Scouting, with similar how-to sessions available for leaders from all programs.
Cub Scout Monthly Themes for 2007-2008
Cub Scouting activities are centered on a brand-new theme each month. Packs may rearrange the theme schedule to have their area’s best weather for certain outdoor activities. Here are the themes for the coming months:
Get Help at www.scouting.org
The Cub Scout Leader section of the national BSA Web site, www.scouting.org, is packed with downloadable resources useful to novice and veteran den leaders alike.
At the main page, www.scouting.org, Cub Scout leaders may select “Adult Leaders” and be directed to a wealth of resources at the Cub Scout Division Web page.
About Cub Scouting. Basic information on Cub Scouting, its history, values, purposes, methods, and organization.
Program Support. Links to such helpful information as The Leaders’ Library, Online Resources, Resources for New Leaders, Cub Scout Monthly Themes, and The New Leader Kit.
Activities and Events. Guidelines for den and pack meetings; outdoor activities including camping; and special events, including blue and gold banquets, derbies, and service projects.
Uniforms and Awards. Official standards for the Cub Scout uniform, youth and leader; advancement as well as other awards for youth, adult leaders, and units.
Training. Descriptions of every level and type of BSA training, plus links to online training courses available for Cub Scout leaders.
Youth Protection. Resources to help all leaders educate Scouts and parents.
The site also includes CubCast, a downloadable audio podcast featuring a variety of how-to and information topics for Cub Scout leaders and parents, and Webelos Transition, which offers guidelines for improving the process of graduating Webelos Scouts to Boy Scouting.