“Boys have a thousand muscles to wiggle with and only one dozen to sit still with,” legendary Scouting writer Bill Hillcourt wrote back in 1947. “That dozen gets mighty tired mighty quickly.”
“Green Bar” Bill might have had his physiology wrong, but his grasp of child psychology was spot-on. Boys of all ages aren’t very good at sitting still, but that’s what they’re expected to do at too many den and pack meetings. As a result, those meetings can become exercises in frustration — and little else — for boys and leaders alike. The situation only gets worse in the spring as days grow longer and the end of school draws near.
Pack 621 in Longview, Texas, has its share of fidgety boys, but Cubmaster Chris Peurifoy, a physical education teacher by day, knows how to harness and redirect their energy. Here are his top tips.
Peurifoy’s first tactic is to build activity into every den meeting, whether it’s a game, hike around the block or search for grasshoppers on the front lawn. “That could possibly be the only other time the kids are active,” he says. “They’re going to go home, they’re going to do the rest of their homework if they have it, then they’re going to go to bed.”
The meeting plans in the den leader guides offer plenty of suggested activities, even when the monthly theme isn’t especially action-oriented. Beyond those activities, though, you should be ready to do an impromptu activity if your boys need a change of pace or the meeting goes faster than expected.
Take Station Breaks
You can keep Scouts engaged by setting up den-meeting activities at separate stations and walking among them, something Peurifoy’s wife, Becky, does with the den she leads.
“They’ll go out in the breezeway or someplace like that,” Chris Peurifoy says. “One parent will set up down at the end and one in the middle and so on, and they’ll just rotate around. I think the boys really like it because they’re not just sitting there waiting on someone to tell them what to do for the entire time.”
To see how stations might work, consider the Week One meeting for the Bear Necessities adventure, which includes four activities: setting up tents, planning a menu, assembling
a barometer and playing a game. You could set up the tents outside, plan menus at a nearby picnic table, go inside to do the barometer activity, and then go back outside for the game. (If space is limited, you could just move from one end of your meeting room to the other for each activity.)
The station approach lets you set up each activity before the meeting begins, making the transition between activities easier. And if different parents are leading different activities, they can get into place before the boys reach their station.
Play the Right Games
As a physical-education teacher, Peurifoy has led countless games, and he has learned to avoid those that leave players on the outside looking in, such as tag games in which players are gradually eliminated until just one player is left.
His strategy is to add a task that lets eliminated players return to the game. In one recent game, for example, he told boys they could get back in by doing 10 jumping jacks. “Every two or three minutes, I’d switch the exercise,” he says. “Now you’ve got to do air squats. Now you’ve got to do exploding jumps. They were pouring with sweat because of how active they were.”
Speed Up the Boring Stuff
When Peurifoy first joined Pack 621, meetings tested the sitting-still muscles of boys and parents alike. “We used to sit there and wait for every den to be called up and every boy to be called out to get his awards,” Peurifoy says. The leaders sought a way to speed up the process without leaving anybody out.
These days, the pack does something quite different when presenting belt loops and activity patches. When Peurifoy announces “award formation,” the boys and parents in each den quickly form a circle with their chairs. The dens then hold simultaneous award presentations, something that allows the den leaders to give boys more individual attention in a shorter amount of time. When they’re done, Peurifoy announces the return to “pack formation,” and everyone moves back into place. “That’s made our meetings fly by,” he says.
It has also allowed more time for fun during the meetings. And that’s a good thing, since boys have a thousand muscles for fun and only a dozen for paying attention.
Holding pack meetings is a critical part of your pack’s Journey to Excellence. If your dens meet twice a month during the school year and your pack earns the Summertime Pack Award, you’ll be on your way to gold. Learn more at scouting.org/jte.
Bravo! Right on!
Excellent ideas! Thank you!