Scouting magazine

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.

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.”