ScoutingOctober 2002

The Leader's Bag of Magical Wonders

By Laura Biggs
Illustration By Marvin Friedman

During unexpected program lulls, a handy dandy collection of tricks and gimmicks can hold the attention of restless Cub Scouts.

It's lunchtime at day camp, and the guest entertainer is late. A hundred Cub Scouts are fidgeting and starting to poke each other.

Time to bring out what I call the "Leader's Bag of Magical Wonders." It looks ordinary enough, lumpy with a few simple items. However, in the hands of a clever leader, the items inside can work like magic during an unexpected lull at a Cub Scout event or activity.

The first time I saw the magical powers of such a collection was at a Cub Scout Leader Basic Training session. We were set to watch a videotaped segment when the VCR failed.

After five minutes the machine was still out of order, so our trainer whipped out two red feathers. She lined us up in two teams. The first person in line each took a feather and threw it like a spear down the hall. They retrieved it and threw it again and again until they reached the end of the hall. Then they raced back and handed the feather to the next in line. Each person in turn repeated the exercise, until one team finished before the other. I looked around, and, behold, everyone was cheering and laughing.

The VCR never did work, but the training was a huge success, thanks to a leader who knew how to work magic with two red feathers.

Ball, rope, and neckerchief

Since then, I've taken note whenever I've witnessed these leader/magicians at work. The following are just a few examples:

At Cub Scout day camp, a tired young camper tripped and bumped his knee. There was no blood, but he was crying. A leader sat down beside him and pulled from his pocket a length of rope—not much, perhaps a yard. Slowly, he ran one end here, the other there, forming simple knots. The boy, fascinated, took hold of the rope, winding it under and over, trying the knots. Soon his tears dried up, and his face glowed with renewed spirit.

At a den meeting, a particularly wound-up boy blew through the door and threatened to distract all the others from their craft projects. The den leader produced a pair of twisted nails, entwined in a puzzle. The agitated boy slowed, sat down, and his commotion stopped as he became captivated in the attempt to separate the nails. Soon he succeeded and happily joined the others in the craft.

Another den activity took less time than expected, and the boys began chasing each other around the yard. The leader pulled off her neckerchief and blindfolded one of the Cub Scouts. The rest formed a circle around him. Each tried to sneak up and touch his blindfolded comrade without first being tagged by him. The boys played in silence, except for frequent bursts of laughter, and soon their parents arrived to pick them up.

A game at a pack meeting had become particularly rambunctious, and it was time for the boys to calm down for the awards ceremony. The leader displayed a tennis ball. While tossing and catching it, he started everyone singing "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."

As long as the ball was in the air, the group sang vigorously, but whenever the ball bounced, everyone had to stop. Soon every eye was watching the ball, and by the time the song ended, the boys were ready for the ceremony.

Filling your own sack

Fetch a small sack or box and start thinking what you can put in your Bag of Magical Wonders.

Do you know how to fold some really cool paper airplanes? Toss in a pad of paper. Can you teach a coin trick? Put in a supply of nickels. Do you like mechanical puzzles? So will a Cub Scout. And don't forget the wondrous versatility of such objects as string, beanbags, and balloons.

You can also include a list of your favorite songs, jokes, and cheers.

The next time Cub Scouts sit waiting for the lunchtime speaker, produce your Bag of Magical Wonders and pull out some bubble gum. Bring the den chiefs on stage, give them each a piece, and ready, set, go! They unwrap the gum, pop it in, and start chewing.

Watch the Cub Scouts wildly cheer on their den chief, until a bubble appears. Then they start the countdown—10, 9, 8, 7 . . . Pop! Try again!

The late-arriving speaker just may be greeted by a chorus of enchanted boys. That's what happens when a leader knows how to make magic.

Laura Biggs lives in Danville, Va.

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