Understanding the new Cub Scout advancement program


This fall, Cub Scouts everywhere are blazing new trails in advancement. Gone is the multitude of achievements, electives, arrow points and activity badges that confused leaders and parents — plus the beads that skittered across floors during pack meetings. In their place is a new advancement program that is simple and consistent.

WHAT ARE THE RANKS? They remain the same: Bobcat, Tiger (formerly Tiger Cub), Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Arrow of Light. Boys will work on one rank per year, starting with Tiger in first grade.

HOW IS THE NEW PROGRAM SIMPLER? For each rank except Bobcat, boys will complete seven adventures on specific topics like teamwork or hiking. (Each adventure represents about a month’s worth of meetings and activities.) All that changes from year to year is the proportion of required and elective adventures.

HOW DOES BOBCAT FIT IN? New Cub Scouts will still earn the Bobcat badge, which introduces the basics of Cub Scouting.

EXPLAIN THE NEW DUTY-TO-GOD REQUIREMENT. One required adventure for each rank is a family-focused duty-to-God adventure. Parents or guardians are responsible for helping boys complete the requirements while helping their son explore what duty to God means in their family.

ARE THERE ENOUGH ADVENTURES TO LAST ALL YEAR? Yes. There are 19 adventures each for Tiger, Wolf and Bear and 27 for Webelos Scout and Arrow of Light combined. Boys can continue to complete adventures after earning a rank.

MUST THE ADVENTURES BE DONE IN ORDER? No. The program is designed to be flexible.

DO BOYS HAVE TO EARN THE WEBELOS RANK BEFORE ARROW OF LIGHT? Boys who are active as Webelos Scouts before the fifth grade are expected to earn the Webelos rank. Boys who join during fifth grade now earn Bobcat and then move straight to Arrow of Light (just like other new Scouts have always worked on the age-appropriate rank).

WHAT RECOGNITION ITEMS DO BOYS RECEIVE? At the Tiger, Wolf and Bear levels, boys receive adventure loops (belt loops). For Webelos Scouts and Arrow of Light, they receive adventure pins. The rank patches are the same as before.

HOW DO COSTS COMPARE? The new adventure loops cost $1.39; the old program belt loops cost $1.89. Most packs should find their overall expenses stay about the same.

MUST I SUBMIT AN ADVANCEMENT REPORT FOR ADVENTURE LOOPS AND PINS? No. Loops and pins are designed to be used as immediate recognition, so you can buy them ahead of time. Purchase of rank badges continues to require a signed advancement report.

HOW DO THESE CHANGES AFFECT OTHER AWARDS? Requirements for awards like the Cub Scout World Conservation Award and the Nova awards have been updated.

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION? Your best source for updates is
scouting.org/programupdates. For a detailed overview, read Scouting’s coverage of the new program at scoutingmagazine.org/cubscouts.


  1. the BSA keeps comparing the belt loop pricing saying its going to be cheaper. However that is like comparing apples to oranges. The old Academic and Sports (belt loop) program was an additional set of activites. in addition to the “hanging immediate recognition device” To accurately compare you must compare the new adventure loops to the previous IRD.

    the new belt loops are immediate recognition devices.

    All Ranks:
    $1.39 x 7 adventures (minimum) = $9.73 per year

    Tiger Cub:
    $7.98 for the hanger, and beads. Per year
    Cub Scout (wolf/bear):
    $5.98 and good for two years (or $2.99 per year)

    I wish National would quit trying to pass this off as being cheaper than previously because it is in fact NOT.

    • One thing to keep in mind is they tried to integrate many of the academic/sports program into the new advancement materials – and thus the immediate recognition is – to some degree still related in the manner in which they reference it.

    • Those of us who actually had to deal with those incredibly stupid plastic hangy thingies that you couldn’t get onto the uniform button without self injury or breaking the button, are glad that those cheap pieces of crap are gone. Also… no more chasing those stupid beads.

      And if you were one of those incredibly unfortunate units who didn’t do the S&A program and regularly issue belt loops, well, I’m sorry for your boys, it was a lot of fun. If you did the S&A program and issued belt loops, well then you’ll find that the expense of awards will remain about the same. And you won’t have to deal with those darn beads.

      Thank you to National for listening to all of us who were really frustrated with many aspects of the old program and coming up with a program and system of recognition that makes sense!

      • I believe you took my comments way out of context. Our unit most definately participated in the S&A program and awarded belt loops. However, back then just as it is now those loops were never worn by any of the scouts.

        I have no problem with the belt loops being a form of immediate recognition, but don’t try to compare them by price to the old belt loops and try spin it that we are saving money. It’s just not the case.

  2. Can the Cub Scout World Conservation Award be earned based on last years requirements for Arrow of Light boys – since they are allowed to continue in last years rank program (for 2015-16 only) and since they may have partially completed the requirements?

  3. BSA sure seems to like belt loops. It’s probably the most awkward way to demonstrate advancement, except for maybe the achievement pins on a hat… National keeps pushing them to different programs hoping they will get more popular.
    Most of the changes don’t really make that much difference (renaming a group of requirements doesn’t make them more of an adventure) so it’s no big deal.
    My one REAL concern is changing the nature of the Arrow of Light. It used to be somewhat special and required a little effort and planning to get. Now it’s just another age-based badge with no significance. Now it doesn’t make any sense to have it be a lifelong recognition and wear a knot for ever. Is the knot going away? If not, why not (no puns intended…sort of…)?

    • Rick, I agree with you 100% on the AOL rank. If there is no effort needed to earn it (compared to previous) why the extra recognition for it as the boy grows into a boy scout, and potentially an adult leader.

      • I agree with Rick. I really hate that Arrow of Light is no longer that Special award like Eagle. My scouts worked hard to achieve that special goal and now it has dwindled down to just another rank. I am glad that my scouts went through the old way and am deeply saddened that the next group of scouts will go through this new non-special way.

    • I agree with this. My son’s been in Scouts since first grade and is now a Web II under the old system. He’s worked very hard to get to AOL and will also finish with all 20 of the old activity badges completed (and then some, like his religious emblem, cyber chip, all four STEM awards, etc.) But it seems that the AOL is just another rank, nothing special. How is this fair to the kids who have worked so hard?

    • 100% Agree, with AOL being given away is just wrong. Understand if a boy decides to join later, but he should have to go through the process to earn it. If not they should take away the knot for adults if there is no more special meaning. My son earned belt loops last yr at a camp out and now we find out they changed them and no longer authorized to wear. Now they are to easy to get and they look very “kiddie”.. And lastly why oh why did they change up the Oath? Why BSA WHY?

      Bad enough we sell over priced popcorn….next thing you know they’ll give away Eagle Scout.

      • Your son is still allowed to wear the previous belt loops. Anything earned under the old program is still an award they earned in cub scouts.

      • I didn’t know that about the AOL. What a shame. It should continue to be something that the boys aspire to. Something that means I went the extra mile. I truly did my best! I am sad to know that they are taking that away. I hope that they don’t dilute the Eagle the same way and that they change this back right away. Maybe if they get enough complaints? Who knows. I haven’t delved into the depths of this program but I thought the old was great. Some of this I am still finding frustrating. But I’m sure that I will at least feel more comfortable as we go along. I just wish they had graduated this in trying it out on new boys and not ones who are halfway through the program.

    • Agree with Rick as well – glad to have new 5th graders join, but I think they should work toward Webelos rank and would have to do all the requirements to earn Webelos rank as well as the additional Arrow of Light requirements to get it.

    • First off, BSA doesn’t like belt loops. Boys like belt loops. The huge fuss that was made about BELT LOOPS when it was first announced that the Sports and Academics program was being retired should tell you, and did tell the BSA, that belt loops in one form or another needed to continue.

      Second, the Arrow of Light is now more difficult to earn. It used to be super easy to earn the AoL. Just do the right Activity Badges during your Webelos year, tack on an outing with the Boy Scouts, and Boom! Done. Now they actually have to do real rank specific work AND earn several more electives. The new Arrow of Light is both more meaningful AND allows us to add new boys in 5th grade. It’s pretty freaking amazing actually, that they made it both harder to earn AND more accessible. Kudos to the Cub Adventure Team for a job well done.

      • You know, I know a lot of folks who were unhappy the S&A program was being retired, and none of them minded losing the belt loops. The program was great, but not the loops. Just like when Boy Scouts dropped the old loops for First Class requirements. The loops are awkward, easy to loose – have to be reloaded on the belt every time the Scout changes clothes, which means they get lost or they just don’t get worn. The only way they are useful is to buy the little display case and put the loops there on the wall, and then the whole purpose to show a boy making progress goes away.
        I got a chuckle about your comparison between the AOL requirements. Minimize the activity badges to justify the changes – which actually don’t really change that much. But in your zeal to promote the new program, you missed the point. It wasn’t about being harder or easier, it was about something extra to aspire to. Now it’s just another rank – which makes the know a little silly now. And you could always add the second year kids. A lot of us do the entire Webelos program in one year.
        But, hey, I’m glad you like the changes.

  4. I, too, agree with the comments about the AOL. But it’s the way BSA seems to have been doing things for the past several years. I’ve been involved in Scouting since 1992 and am the Mother of 4 Eagles. From 2001 when my first son earned his Eagle to 2015 when my fourth son earned his, there have been so many changes in how Boards are run. In many instances, Eagle Candidates are processed through a well-oiled machine instead of being assessed on their own merits. While still a great achievement, Eagle doesn’t quite mean as much as it did just a few years ago.

    • Sad but true. Why Bob Gates and company thinks cheapening any achievement makes it more desirable in the long run shows that the general decline in social values has come to scouting. Is a college degree mean much anymore unless it is from an elite institution? Is this not even more true of a high school diploma? The watering down of requirements makes the award be it academic or in scouting less meaningful and fewer desire their sons to be part of a declining organization.

      • The National seems to be playing a balancing act. They are struggling with declining enrollment, and have taken the view that simplifying it will attract more kids. It seems intuitive on the surface, but in my experience, that brings short term gains.
        They seem to be ignoring the fact that declining enrollment is more of a case of not doing recruiting. They have relied on the individual scout to bring a friend, but that is not going to bring real growth.
        National is not working with councils to really do any serious marketing or recruitment of Chartered Organizations – which is the real growth avenue. All of the focus seems focused on getting kids and their parents attracted to the fun, but the effort that goes into making a Scouting program work kills that interest really fast.
        It is the CO, who has a vested interest in developing the youth they serve, that will get the leaders in it for the long haul, where the program develops and will attract the kids. That’s why 71.5% of the COs are religious organizations. They have motivations beyond “fun” to put the effort in.
        Instead, National acts like the COs are an impediment.

    • I think the answer you are looking for is – it depends.
      For the Webelos rank, the Duty to God and Me adventure requirement is 1. Earn the religious emblem of your faith for Webelos Scouts, if you have not already done so.
      For Arrow of Light, the Duty to God in Action Adventure requirement 1: Earn the religious emblem of your faith for Webelos Scouts, if you have not already done so.
      Different religious denominations handle their Cub Scout awards differently. Some have separate awards for cubs and Webelos. For those you would earn them separately. Other denominations don’t separate the Cubbing awards, and so you would not necessarily redo the work for Webelos.

  5. My favorite part of the new Tiger Handbook is when the scouts have achieved all the Tiger rank badge requirements ” Let out a big GRAND HOWL, Tiger Scout!” I wasn’t aware Tigers howled.

  6. I’m glad the program seems to be more streamlined and requires more outings and experiences. Belt loops versus pins. The whole point is to round out the program. By encouraging them to be well rounded and provide incentives to do well in school, participate in sports, and to try new hobbies.

  7. I have more of a question than comment. I just sort of got handed being in charge of the spring program, cubs only. I was wondering about the new adventure loops. I was told by the man giving me our budget that we are not allowed to pay for belt loops, my reply was that I was told they no longer have belt loops but adventure loops. He then said we do not pay for loops period that is the responsibility of the parents.

    Then I spoke with my den leaders and they said that the adventure loops are the equivalent to a merit badge and that they are necessary. So my question is am I being played by my den leaders to get the loops paid for or is this true? Thank you in advance for your help, this whole scouting thing blows my mind. Your help is greatly appreciated.

  8. Do you have a monthly schedule for den meetings? We meet weekly and would love a resource that breaks down the activities into a schedule we can follow each year. We saw one for pack meeting. What about den?

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