How to have a smooth — and successful — Webelos transition

CrossingBridgeCATHY BURKS, a Webelos II leader in Pack 177 in Belton, Texas, was looking for the perfect Boy Scout troop for the boys in her den but had no idea where to start.
Jason Akai, committee chairman of Pack 341 in Oak Forest, Ill., wanted to involve youth and leaders from the Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop in the crossover ceremony.
And Kathi Robertson, a Webelos I leader in Pack 3959 in Salt Lake City noticed her den meetings were too boring — not a good way to get the boys pumped for their move into Boy Scouting.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Each year as Webelos Scouts advance into Boy Scouting, many of these potential Scouts — because of lack of interest, poor relationships or unfamiliarity with the new program — fall through the cracks and leave Scouting for good.

“Preparing a boy for Boy Scouts is one of the purposes of Cub Scouts,” says Bob Scott, the BSA’s Cub Scout experience manager. “It’s very important that Cub Scout leaders understand and plan toward that transition.”

Why is the transition so crucial?

“Studies show that the longer a boy stays in the Scouting program, the more likely he is to demonstrate those behaviors and attitudes associated with good citizenship, character and fitness,” Scott explains. “For boys to benefit fully from the Scouting program, they need to experience not only the fun of Cub Scouting but also the skills and leadership opportunities of Boy Scouting.”

The BSA’s guidelines recommend the Webelos transition passage from Cub Scout pack to Boy Scout troop be smooth, with no time lost in between. To help Cub Scout parents and leaders ensure an effective transition into Boy Scouting, we’ve compiled the following tips.

How to find the right troop for your Webelos transition

Boy Scouts learning

The first step in a successful Webelos (Webelos-to-Scout) transition is finding the right Boy Scout troop to join. Some packs, like those sponsored by many churches, are already “feeder” packs for specific troops, which makes this step easy. Parents and Webelos Scouts, with help from their pack leaders, should do some homework in preparation for the move by learning about all of the options available in their local area.

First Impressions

A key factor in deciding on a troop is the location and time of meetings. Make sure both of these fit your needs. But finding a good troop goes deeper than just schedule considerations.

“The key is getting the Webelos Scouts introduced to the boys in the troop,” says Bob Scott, the BSA’s Cub Scout experience manager. “It’s a relationships business.”
Meeting with potential troops — either during a formal visit or at an activity — allows parents and boys to interact and decide if the troop is a good fit. Visits can be scheduled by parents, packs or even with help from the district. Some districts also sponsor activities designed to bring Webelos Scouts and Boy Scouts together, such as a Webelos Woods campout, daytime activity or troop open house.

“Visit at least three troops on two different occasions,” suggests Katie Bradeen, committee chair for Pack 51 in Schertz, Texas. “Talk with other parents and leaders and ask questions about fundraising, communication styles, advancement, troop gear, committee needs, types of activities and other troop functions.”

Works on Many Levels

If possible, look for a good age mix in a prospective troop.

“It is helpful to join a troop which has boys at each grade level, so that when you join there are still some older Scouts in the troop,” explains Sue Miller, a former Webelos Scout parent in Portland, Ore. “Make sure to join a troop that is boy-led.”

Some troops have a new-Scout patrol designed specifically to welcome and include younger boys in a comfortable setting. Or, if a Webelos Scout has special needs, such as a learning disability, search for a troop with knowledge on how to deal with his particular situation.

Boys can talk to current Boy Scouts to find out what they like best and what they would change in their troop. Then, parents and Webelos Scouts should compare notes and discuss their choice together.

Shop Around

Cathy Burks, a Webelos II leader from Texas, took her den to visit a different troop every month from August through January. “The boys and their parents used a chart to track the differences and similarities between each troop,” she says. “Then they compared the troops and decided which factors were most important to them.”

In addition to visiting and participating with local troops at their events, Salt Lake City Scouter Kathi Robertson says, “We also invited Scouts to attend a few of our monthly Webelos outings. The Scouts were excited to come, and the boys all became friends, so the transition to the troop was much easier.”

Find a Fit

How do you know when you’ve found the right troop? Bradeen remembers: “I could hear it in my son’s voice and the way his face lit up when he talked about the experience he had. It felt like the troop fit.”

“Fit” is a good description regarding the BSA’s official advice on the subject. Webelos Scouts and their families should be familiar and comfortable with the youth and adult leaders of the troop and feel excited about beginning this new adventure.

Webelos Scouts in Burks’ Pack 177 transferred into three different troops. “One boy chose the troop where his brother already attended, while another Scout chose a troop in a neighboring town,” she says. Her son intentionally chose a smaller troop “where he could have more personal attention and early leadership opportunities.”

One caution from Bradeen: “Remember that even if the troop chosen turns out not to be the right one initially, don’t leave Boy Scouting. Instead, change troops!”

How to plan a better Webelos transition crossover ceremony

Scout flag ceremony

Found the perfect Boy Scout troop? The next element of a smooth transition is a meaningful crossover ceremony.

Ceremonies leave lasting impressions on boys and teach important principles to those involved and those watching. The BSA says the Webelos Scout’s graduation ceremony should clearly signify his transition to a new level of Scouting. While ceremonies are as unique and varied as Cub Scouts themselves, here are a few tips for planning an unforgettable one.

Take It Literally

Make sure the ceremony visually represents the progression from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting.

Many packs use a physical bridge — indoor or outdoor — to symbolize the crossover. Simple bridges can be built, dismantled and stored for later reuse. Outdoor bridges at parks or nature centers provide free crossover locations in a natural setting. (Search “Scouting crossover bridges” online to find tons of ideas and options.)

Include Both Sides

Even without a bridge, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting should clearly be represented during the event, with leaders and boys present from the boys’ pack and their future troop (or troops).

“We did our crossover at the fire ring of the local Scout camp,” remembers Texas Cub Scouter Cathy Burks. “Scoutmasters and Scouts came from each chosen troop and gave a neckerchief and slide to the boys joining their unit. It was awesome.”

Jason Akai, committee chairman of Pack 341 in Oak Forest, Ill., has his advancing Webelos Scouts bid farewell to their fellow Cub Scouts and then sign their names on the pack bridge with a marker. He includes formal speaking parts for Cub Scout leaders, boys and Boy Scout leaders. “Having everyone involved in the crossover adds to the meaningfulness of the ceremony,” he says.

Webelos Den Leader Alice Herrick of Pack 171 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., organizes a dinner with formal written invitations. “The boys present their mom with a pin and read a letter of thanks to each of their former den leaders before they cross the bridge to their new troop.”

Many Pieces of Flair

Finally, don’t forget the pizzazz — this is Cub Scouting, after all. Your pack’s crossover ceremony should include a theme, symbolic gifts or even special lighting.

Marc Dworkin, former Cubmaster of Pack 252 in Allendale, N.J., gave each of the graduating Webelos Scouts an (imitation) eagle feather as they crossed the bridge.

Dworkin told the boys, “This feather is not really a gift. I want you to return it to me at your Eagle Scout court of honor.”

Some crossovers include an Arrow of Light ceremony. Kendall Brown of Pack 4060 in Arab, Ala., invited the ceremony team from the district Order of the Arrow chapter to conduct the Arrow of Light and bridging ceremonies. “Four OA members attended in full dress regalia,” he recalls. “Not only did the Webelos Scouts, their parents and special family guests love it, the Tiger Cubs were completely mesmerized.”

When ceremonies are meaningful — and boys feel welcomed — Webelos Scouts and parents understand the significance of their advancement and naturally want to continue on the Scouting trail.

How to avoid a final-year burnout

Scouts working on project in water

In high school it’s called “senioritis.” Some Webelos Scouts feel similar final-year doldrums as they eagerly await the transition into Boy Scouting.

This can be avoided. How do effective Cub Scout leaders maintain momentum with their Webelos Scouts? Keep it exciting.

First Ingredient: Fun

“An action-packed Webelos program is the best way to encourage Webelos-to-Scout transition,” says Webelos I leader Kathi Robertson. After observing her bored boys, she realized that much of each meeting involved sitting.

Robertson started including the Webelos Scouts in planning dynamic activities for every den meeting as well as an outdoor field trip. “Soon, the boys were eager to come to meetings, and when it was time to transition to a troop, they were excited because they knew that Scouting would include activities they wanted.”

Get Outside

James and Beth Worthen, parents and leaders in Pack 535 of Casper, Wyo., say camping is another key to maintaining Webelos momentum. “There is a fundamental shift between Cubs and Boy Scouts in the emphasis on overnight camping, and the Webelos years can help make that transition.”

Patrick Stanley, Troop 84 Scoutmaster in Sulphur, La., agrees. “Get your boys to a Webelos resident camp the summer between fourth and fifth grades. Most of the Scouts lost in transition do not stop attending because the crossover ceremony wasn’t meaningful; it’s often because a month or two later they are overwhelmed by a weeklong summer camp with the troop.”

A den chief or Boy Scout could join the Webelos Scouts on their campout and give tips on how the troop handles events like flag ceremony, waiter duty or campsite inspection.

Help Is on the Way

The new Cub Scout program — rolling out in May 2015 — has additional camping experiences for boys from Wolf Cubs through Webelos Scouts that are specifically designed to prepare the boys for the Scouting transition.

“During those first three to four months of the Boy Scout experience, many troops are going to summer camp, so we’re trying to make sure the new Scout is prepared for that,” Scott explains.

Troops Play a Role

Finally, once boys cross over, good relationships are key to maintaining momentum in the Scouting program.

“It’s really incumbent on the Boy Scout leaders to be positive receivers and to work together with the pack,” says Scott.

“Adult leaders can foster a culture that promotes retention efforts handled by the boys themselves,” James Worthen says. “Patrol leaders and Scouts can mentor, invite and make assignments so that new Scouts feel they are a valuable part of the troop.”

13 Comments

  1. “fit” should be an individual thing. If a boy joins a particular troop ‘because everyone else in the den’ is joining that troop he might end up disappointed because that troop does not meet his individual needs.

  2. This is true but I find that a majority of the boys want to go along with their Patrol so they know someone in the new Troop, so they don’t feel as though they are the only one on display they have their friends as backups. My first Webelos group their latter part of their Webelos 2 Rank we decided on a Troop and asked if we could hold some of our Den Meeting along with the Troop. It work great at the transition they knew a lot of the boys and felt part of the group already.

  3. An excellent article on Webelos to Scout Transition explaining methods to increase success of this important activity. Missing is a tie to the Journey to Excellence Objective, for Packs and Troops it is JTE Objective #4-Webelos-to-Scout Transition. Each program has different objective measures however the intent is the same, make appropriate plans for the transition and then work to make those plans come to life. Two joint activities, Pack (or Webelos Den) with a Troop, Troop with a Pack (or Webelos Den) measure out as Bronze, then based on success on how many Webelos transition the unit is either Silver or Gold. The point is to make a plan, make contact with other units, have exciting joint activities and the Scouts will follow.

  4. When half of the Webelos in your Pack want to cross over to one Troop and the other half would like to cross over to another Troop; how would you handle the cross over? Would representatives from both Troops be present at the cross over and each do their own ceremony?

    • Tom,

      I am scoutmaster in NY and went to a pack Blue & Gold last night (Thursday) where four scouts were getting their Arrows of Light and crossing over to boy scouts.

      All four boys had visited a number of troops in the area, including mine, Three crossed over to the troop ‘attached’ to the pack but one crossed over into mine.

      I was there with our neckerchief & slide for the scout, along with two senior scouts to welcome him in.

      It was an easy and smooth process; helped in part by the fact that the other scoutmaster & I are friends and have worked together before.

      Our newest scout liked what we offered and the others were more comfortable his my friend’s troop.

      The pack has its own bridge cross over ceremony and the troop representatives stood on the other side and said a few words of welcome to their newest scouts. So the Webelos crossed over together as a den, which is how it should be, honestly.

      Regards,

      James
      Scoutmaster Troop 67 (Scotia-Glenville, NY)

    • Yes, have both troop representatives present. There should be only one ceremony though. Usually, the crossover ceremony is run by the pack and the troop representatives just play a role. We have the boys cross over a bridge one at a time and are met on the other side by the troop representatives. It’s easy enough to have both troops on the receiving side of the bridge.

    • Our Webelos will visit multiple Troops before our bridging so the boys can see the different styles. When the boys choose a troop, we invite each troop to be a part of the bridging.

  5. As I read the article in Scouting Magazine I kept saying to myself, “it sounds like the pack is doing the planning for the crossover. Shouldn’t the troops have a major part in planning the crossover to their troop?” We are a feeder pack so have a troop that most of those crossing over go to. The pack does any AOL Ceremony needed. Sometimes we have them cross over “our” bridge but then the troop takes over and plans and runs the crossover. Don’t other packs do it this way?

    • We do an Arrow of Light rank ceremony, that merges into crossing the bridge (an actual wooden bridge which each boy gets to sign) into Boy Scouts. Representatives of the Troops the Webelos are joining are present to receive them into their Troops on the other side of the bridge. If the boys in the den have chosen to join more than one Troop, then representatives from each Troop are present.

      People are really pretty good about being supportive of the Scouts and being cooperative for the ceremony.

      Most of the planning is done by the Pack, but some Troops want to do special welcoming ceremonies so it’s a joint effort in the end.

    • There are a variety of ways of doing Cross Over. Some packs have a set format, some use the order of the Arrow to do the ceremony. Some have the troop the Cubs are joining do the ceremony.

      And there are some troops that , while they welcome Cubs into the troop at Cross Over, the troop does a formal “Investiture Ceremony” when the new Scout earns the Scout Rank. In addition to the Scout Rank, they also receive the troop necekr chief and slide.

  6. @ last years crossover we told the crossover to bring a backpack. He crossed over, loaded up and went to our campsite. Made sure the cubs new it.

    This year we had 4 cross and those available met up for a cookout and movie. Makes them feel a part of the troop and makes the cubs wish they were crossing.

  7. I think the parents need help with the transition just as much as the boys. I meet a lot of parents that don’t understand they don’t sign off on requirements anymore, or that they need a blue card sign for their child because they worked on a merit badge over winter break. I also here a lot of the camp outs are too expensive, I have to pay for 6 people to go. They don’t get that the entire family doesn’t go on every one anymore. I’m not saying the family shouldn’t be involved, but that Boy Scouts is more of a transition to independence and doing things for themselves. Parents aren’t getting that.

  8. This was really interesting: “The boys and their parents used a chart to track the differences and similarities between each troop,”
    it would be great if articles like this included resources like that – our pack is taking our Web2s to visit all six area troops, but so far all we’re hearing is that they all seem alike except that two of them are smaller than the rest. We haven’t been able to lead the families to see where there are differences (because of course there are differences) – a tool like that would be very useful.

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