Secrets to teaching the Webelos activity badges

EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN grand opera and light opera. Demonstrate Bernoulli’s Principle. Trace the history of different kinds of schools. Build a catapult.MarApr13_CSC_Webelos

These are just a few of the requirements for the 20 Webelos Scout activity badges. And they’re just a few reasons many Webelos den leaders panic when they first crack open the Cub Scout Webelos Handbook. Jeff Giacomi of Cypress, Calif., remembers this moment well. “You look at it, and you’re overwhelmed,” he says. “Oh my gosh, how am I supposed to present all these things and do them justice?”

The answer, Giacomi discovered, was to get help. Early on, his co-leader in Pack 660 recruited a friend in the healthcare industry to teach Readyman, so their boys got to practice first aid with fake blood and simulated wounds. The Scouts learned a lot that day—and so did Giacomi. “You really need to go out and find people who have a passion for whatever activity badge it is and let them do it,” he says. “They’ll make it a lot more exciting for the kids.”

All in the Family
So where can you find teachers for activity badges? John Hanks, who has led two dens in Connecticut, suggests starting with your den’s families.

Begin with family talent surveys—these can reveal hidden talents. Giacomi once found a dad who could teach Craftsman. He’d known the man for a couple of years but didn’t realize he had hobbies that matched the Craftsman requirements.

“Talent surveys from past years would be a good resource as well,” Giacomi says, as would past pack leaders. “Our former Cubmaster sings in our parish choir and in another choir. We’ll have him come and do Showman.”

Support Network
Once you’ve exhausted your pack resources, look to your chartered organization, which probably has at least one member who could explain Bernoulli’s Principle. Start by sharing the activity badge list with your chartered organization representative.

When she was a Webelos leader with Pack 1051 in Allen Park, Mich., Michelle Matowski leaned heavily on her chartered organization representative, who she says, “was a really good resource for me.”

If your chartered organization also has a Boy Scout troop, recruit its members to help with badges such as Readyman, Outdoorsman, and Sportsman. “Ask for the senior Scouts—First Class and above—who have a couple of years and summer camp under their belt,” Hanks says.

Giacomi agrees. “The Cub Scouts in my experience always seem to pay attention better when it’s a Boy Scout,” he says. “These kids are Webelos. They know Boy Scouting is coming. It kind of takes on that aura of ‘this is what I’m going to get to do in another year or two.’”

Around the Table
Matowski suggests another great source: roundtable. At roundtable, Matowski found help with badges such as Craftsman, for which she felt unprepared. “I don’t own eight hammers; I don’t own eight miter boxes. I had to go around and find people to loan me the stuff. And I needed the extra eyes to watch the kids and make sure they weren’t getting hurt.”

In return, Matowski, a software engineer by profession, taught Engineer to boys from several dens.

A Walk in the Park
Hanks offers other good sources, including local nature centers, parks, and museums that offer special (paid) programs for Scouts. You might even get the fees waived, or get customized instruction, if you offer to do a service project. “Around here, the local parks have set programs that they will do,” Matowski adds. “Sometimes if you offer to do something like picking up trash, they’ll also offer classes off their schedule, too.”

You can also take your own expert to the park, which is what Giacomi did for Geologist. A parent in his den knew a geologist and invited him on a den hike at a local park. The park was along the San Andreas Fault, and the guest geologist was able to show the boys signs of past earthquakes.

“If I had taken them, I would have had the little brochure from the park and walked around and read what it said,” Giacomi says. That would have been easier than recruiting a guest teacher, but easy isn’t the point. Giacomi says, “It’s about giving the kids the experience of doing something that they’ll find positive.”



  1. Don’t forget the Yellow Pages! When my den parents and Chartered Organization resources are exhausted, I’ll go to the yellow pages and just call. I introduce who I am (Cub Scout leader) and what I’m trying to do (like go to a construction site or find a rock hound). We’ve had some remarkable experiences (like actually going to a construction site wearing hard hats and seeing dinosaur tracks in a river bed).

  2. When I was a Den Leader for my sons den and was not getting a lot of response from Pack parents I looked else where in my area. Here’s a few of the areas I looked to: Don’t forget sources from the boys school- Art, History, Science and Music teachers. Gym or playground equipment to do fitness and athlete. If you have a State Park near by talk with the Naturalist they can help with several requirements with numerous badges. Also check out their camping options, make it fun. If you have a college or university close by contact them for areas such as Engineering, Geology, Insects, Agriculture, or other areas to meet some of the requirements. You can contact the fire company or Emergencies Response company in your area for First Aid or contact your area Red Cross to see if they have a volunteer in the area that you could contact to help with Readyman. Also check with your Counsil, they have Merit Badge Counselors for Boy Scouts, they signed up because they wanted to help an older scout within a certain badge and it could be related to what your scouts are working on, you could check with them to see if they could talk or work with your scouts. I enjoyed my sons Webelos years and I also learned some new things. Look over the info, see where you need help and don’t be afraid to ask if someone can help share their knowledge.

  3. Why reinvent the wheel? If you have a nearby Boy Scout Troop, ask them for help! Just about all of the parents and leaders came up through their Webelos Dens and they have seen the program. They can tell you what their dens did for their badges. They may even have been tapped to present their skills. You can reuse those resources.

  4. I was a Webelos leader just 2 years ago & knew I “could” teach the requirements for all 20 Webelos pins, but knew I would not be the best at it. I had 2 parents & a friends wife (all nurses) to come in & do Readyman for me. I had an Eagle Scout from my hometown who is now the Music Teacher for a local private school in the big city come in to do Showman. I had 3 engineer friends (electrical, chemical, & an architect) from college (& a parent who was also an engineer) do the Engineering pin. I had a parent who was great with tools come in to do the Craftsman projects. I asked the elementary principal to come in to do the scholar requirements. I asked the local state representative to come in to help out with the citizenship requirements. I had my nephew & his wife who both know sign language to come in to help out on the communication requirements. I had a parent who was into physical fitness do the pre & post-tests & fitness requirements for the two pins related to athletics/fitness. I don’t think anyone that I asked turned me down as people like to talk about their job or hobbies. The thing is to just ask as if one never asks, no one is ever going to say “yes”.

  5. Was able to do nearly all 20 pins in the form of a field trip and kids loved it … Found a local artist who teaches classes to negotiate a reduced fee for a 1 time 2 hour session. Loews did craftsman for free. Took kids to high school volleyball match & coach taught the rest (admission fee was $3). Arboretum instructor traded teaching nature in exchange for small service project. Went to local quarry. Science museum for engineering and scientist. Get creative!

  6. When I had a subject that I thought the boys might not be interested in I would buy a big bag of Tootsie Rolls and play the Candy game. I would give each boy a zip lock bag at the start of our class. We would go over what ever the subject was and for everyone who was paying attention they got a 3 or 4 Tootsie Roll. Then I would through out questions that all the boys could answer and for every good answer that wasn’t the same as someone else they would get another Tootsie Roll. The final round of questions would be more specific about the subject and only the first right answer would be taken for another Tootsie Roll. At the end of class we would count up all the Tootsie Rolls and the scout with the most got a chocolate bar. They may not have been interested in the subject but they were paying attention to get the candy. By the end of the night they knew the subject. You could go back 2 weeks later and ask a question about it and they all knew the answer. We did this once or twice a year on things that I knew they would not want to do and they loved it. We made sure that no one boy got left out by the end of class they all were with in 2 or 3 Tootsie Rolls of each other and most had 20 or more.

  7. Every spring the troop works on the 1st aid merit badge and rank requirements, so for the first meeting the webelos will join the troop to do their readyman. It’s a great way to consolidate, and it gives the webelos an opportunity to mingle with the scouts. (plus it’s a nice refresher for those scouts who already have their merit badge)

  8. I am doing it write. That has what I have done, a retired art teacher, engineer, the Children’s Playhouse, our Science Museum all have made an interesting program for our boys. I have also asked Boy Scouts and a family doctor to offer the requirements.

  9. Don’t forget there are great resource people at local colleges and universities. I have degrees in Chemistry, Biology, and Oceanography. I can cover a wide range of topics and I have colleagues in nearly every field that I can ask for help. Many professors and graduate students are happy to help out with a project or two.

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