LONG BEFORE THE END of spring, some Cub Scout packs get a jump on the lazy, hazy days of summer. As May gives way to June, they stop holding den meetings, scale back pack activities, and do little else than mark time until day camp arrives.
“When I first started as Cubmaster, our pack was kind of like that,” says David Pecora, who is finishing up his third year as Cubmaster of Pack 85 in Beaumont, Tex. “When the school year ended in May, Scouting ceased to function, and it didn’t pick up again until the school year started.”
Kids’ summer schedules are less consistent because of camps, activities, and even family vacations. With this change in routine, it’s easy to see how Scouting can get left out of the picture.
No more. Now, Pack 85 takes the opposite approach. Each May, the pack ramps up programming—and planning—to ensure that the excitement of Cub Scouting continues through the summer and beyond. To Pecora and his fellow pack leaders, May is a time to build momentum, not a time to coast to the finish line like a pinewood derby car in the home stretch of a race.
Another pack that builds momentum in May is Pack 88 in Keller, Tex. Founding Cubmaster G.W. Bell (who now serves as chartered organization representative) set that expectation from the beginning. “The program is designed to be 12 months, and you’re not going to get the most benefit out of it without using the program for what it is,” he says.
Although details differ, Bell and Pecora, along with successful pack leaders across the country, focus on three P’s during May: planning, people, and programming.
Early each May, Pack 88 holds a planning conference. It evaluates the year’s activities and sets its calendar for the next year. Pack 85, meanwhile, plans its summer calendar in the spring and then works on its school-year calendar in the summer, once council event dates have been announced.
One advantage of planning ahead is that you can take time to evaluate what you did this year. Recently, for example, Pack 88 was getting into something of a rut, scheduling the same activities from year to year and getting diminishing returns. “Once a kid had been [to an activity or outing] a couple of times, he didn’t want to go again,” Pecora says. The solution: a three-year rotation of pack activities.
Another advantage of planning ahead is that you can distribute calendars to pack families and prospective members before the school year ends. Current members can place pack dates on their family schedules before summer vacation, and new families can see that you offer a well-planned program.
Pecora’s pack works to have all of its fall leadership positions filled by the end of May, while Bell’s shoots for filling them by the pack’s blue and gold banquet. “By graduation in May, we know who our den leaders are going to be,” Bell says.
That’s important, because the dens in his pack meet all summer long. Pecora’s dens don’t meet on regular schedule during the summer, but they are encouraged to remain active. When he was a den leader, for example, Pecora had his boys work on their religious awards during their summer break.
By recruiting leaders early, you can get them trained in the spring and ensure they have the supplies they need before the new year begins. Moreover, people are more likely to volunteer for a job whose start date is weeks or months away rather than next Tuesday.
Pecora and Bell don’t just recruit leaders, though. They also recruit boys. “We’ll go into the classrooms and visit with the kindergarteners and encourage them to sign up for Scouting,” Pecora says. “We let them know that at the end of the month they’re eligible to start in Tiger Cubs.” And since the pack already has planned its calendar, new families know they can sign up for day camp and other summer events, starting their Scouting careers on a high note.
Bell’s pack, meanwhile, participates in a May field day at Freedom Elementary School, where it recruits members each fall. “We let all the kids launch stomp rockets or air rockets; that’s always a hit,” he says. “It also encourages a lot of recruitment because the parents and kids get to know us.”
Still, May isn’t all about the future. The May pack meeting is a great time to celebrate the end of the year and everything the Scouts have accomplished. Pack 85’s chartered organization, St. Anne Catholic School, is located next to a park, so the pack goes there for a Sunday afternoon picnic that replaces its May pack meeting.
“We’ll grill hot dogs and hamburgers and have it as a play day, with different activities for the kids to do,” Pecora says. “If there are any awards or anything they haven’t received, that they missed earlier in the year, we’ll give all that out.”
The Cubmaster also hands out copies of next year’s calendar—a year’s worth of fun activities that start as soon as the school year ends.