When COVID-19 upended life as we knew it last spring, Bert Bender, a pack trainer in Decatur, Ga., began thinking about an important question: “What does Cub Scouting look like in the time of a pandemic when there has to be physical distancing?”
The answer he came up with — a family-led program — helped Cub Scouts in the Atlanta Area Council finish up their ranks in April and May.
“The question was, ‘How do you pull people across the finish line?’” says Bender, who also serves as the council’s new member coordinator. “Also, how do you share resources to do it with the parent who’s stuck at home and who’s not got either the Wi-Fi bandwidth or the patience bandwidth to watch a den leader do it all on Zoom?”
This fall, the council’s program (available at atlantabsa.org/CubScoutAdvance) is helping Cub Scouts in the Atlanta Area Council on their Scouting journeys as COVID-19 continues to play havoc with den and pack schedules.
Putting the Family in the Adventure
The council’s program takes Cub Scout Adventures that Cub Scouts ordinarily work on and repackage them to make it easier for parents to lead them, which means offering parents resources they might not ordinarily have access to, such as YouTube videos, tip lists and annotated lesson plans — things leaders might learn about by taking Position Specific Training, at roundtable or in a Scout leaders’ group on Facebook.
“It’s almost like a checklist for you as a parent to learn those life skills, and then help your child meet those requirements for advancement,” says Kathy Peters, one of the council’s lead volunteers. “I feel like these resources are helping our parents engage in a fun and simple way where you don’t need to be the expert. Because even your den leaders didn’t start off by being experts; they’re just parents that got involved.”
Peters thinks dens and packs that are able to meet in person this fall can still benefit from the new resources.
“In today’s environment of being pulled in so many directions, it’s nice for those den leaders to be able to hand these parents kind of a checklist, if you will, that’s easy to digest and not as intimidating as a den leader guidebook for them to do at home,” says Peters, a former Cubmaster in Alpharetta, Ga. “Then, when they can reconvene, they can talk about what they were able to do as a family.”
Parents vs. the “Experts”
This latest initiative builds on the council’s ongoing effort to brand Scouting as a family program, not just a kids’ program.
“In the Atlanta Area Council for the last three or four years, the motto of the program and now membership has been ‘building stronger families through Scouting,’” Bender says.
And that means empowering all parents to be leaders of their kids.
“As part of our council membership effort that I started heading up last summer, we suggest to people, ‘Don’t show up in uniform when you’re having your signup nights, when you’re doing a meet-and-greet at a school,’” he says. “You want to break down that wall between who’s a khaki person and who’s not. I’m just like you; I’m a parent.”
What’s more, Peters says, is that even parents who aren’t experts on Scouting are experts on their own kids. She gives as an example the standardized tests her kids have to take.
“I always say I know what those results are going to be before I even get them back,” she says, “because I know my kids’ weaknesses, and I know their strengths.”
Scouting … Post-Pandemic
While the council originally created the family-led adventures to help kids get across the finish line last spring, Bender thinks the lasting impact will be on parents and ultimately on the Scouting program in the Atlanta Area Council.
Post-pandemic, he says, “Those parents are going to come out of their houses, and they will no longer have the ability to say, ‘I don’t know how to do this Scouting stuff.’ They will have led their kids through activities and therefore will be ripe to be deployed by den leaders and pack leaders to really go do great things.
“It’s not stronger families through Scouting that we’re necessarily going to see,” he says. “It might be stronger Scouting through families.”