Angie Williamson really, really likes Cub Scout day camp. The Mount Morris, Mich., volunteer likes it so much that she runs two separate camps every summer and also volunteers for a winter camp the Michigan Crossroads Council offers to Cub Scouts.
Williamson likes day camp partly because it’s fun, but mostly because she has seen the impact it has on Cub Scouts.
“My philosophy has always been that if you get a kid to come to camp, you get a kid to stay in the Scouting program,” she says.
What can your pack do to ensure a great day camp experience? Read on for ideas from Williamson and other Michigan Scouters.
The first step is choosing the right camp to attend, which might not be the one in your district.
Dianna Marsh, the council’s team lead for Cub Scout camping, says her council intentionally identifies camps by region, not by field service council. (The sprawling council is made up of four such councils, each of which is divided into districts.)
“The problem we were having is that people were like, ‘I’m in this field service council, and these are the camps they’re running,’ ” she says. “But another field service council might have a day camp that’s actually closer.”
Distance is not the only factor. For some dens (or individual Cub Scouts), a twilight or weekend schedule might work better than a traditional weekday schedule.
“We have one boy who goes to several camps,” says Nate Chance, who runs a day camp in Grand Ledge. “He usually attends two or three day camps throughout Michigan, whatever weeks suit him best.”
Wherever you take your Cub Scouts, Marsh recommends registering them early — and not just to get an early-bird discount. Early registration helps volunteers by giving them a better idea of how many Cub Scouts to expect.
“If you want staff that are prepared and you want a quality program, sign up earlier,” she says. “If you register late, it’s hard to give a good program.”
Chance says another task to handle early is chasing down Annual Health and Medical Record forms for participants. Doing that — and taking advantage of early check-in if your camp offers it — will help ensure the first day of camp goes smoothly.
While district or council volunteers typically run program areas at day camp, most camps expect packs to provide adults to serve as den leaders or den walkers.
Williamson says these adults do far more than get kids from the craft tables to the BB range to the sports field.
“They can read those kids a lot better than people who have just met them that morning,” she says. “They might be able to say, ‘Johnny’s a little bit tired. What can we do to make sure he gets his rest time?’ ”
Chance puts careful thought into who he uses as den walkers from his own pack.
“We try to get a good mixture of those that have been with the pack for a while and have gone to a couple of day camps, and new den walkers that have never been,” he says. “That way, when the older families move on, the new families will be the seasoned ones.”
He also likes to send an extra adult to camp — someone who can float among groups and fill in as necessary.
“They’re in a centralized area where everybody knows where they’re at,” he says.
As soon as camp is over, it’s important to record all the advancement requirements your Cub Scouts have completed, as well as any special awards they’ve earned. Chance and Williamson provide that information on the last day of camp, saving pack leaders from having to figure it out on their own.
“We have it all done by pack number, and we give it to the pack leader that is with them at camp,” Williamson says. “It’s not anything spectacular. It’s a Ziploc bag, and it’s got a piece of paper in there for every child that has attended and what they’ve earned during their time at camp.”
In Williamson’s pack, Cub Scouts receive their awards at the first pack meeting in the fall, which gives her a chance to promote day camp to new families and returning families that weren’t able to participate. Chance gives out awards even sooner, often at a pack picnic the month after camp.
“I like to give out the awards as soon as possible, because that keeps the [Cub] Scouts excited,” he says. “They did something; they earned something.”
And they might go on to do and earn even more.
“Day camp may change a [Cub] Scout from, ‘Yeah, I enjoyed Cub Scouts’ to ‘Now I want to get my Eagle Scout,’ ” he says.