What I Learned at Pow Wow

By Mike Pannone
Illustration by Bill Basso

Expecting boring classroom sessions, a Cub Scout leader discovers how to put pizzazz and fun in den activities.

I remember the first pow wow l attended. I was put out because I was giving up a Saturday, and when I walked into the auditorium I was greeted by a women wearing yellow gloves and singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."

I almost left. But now I know staying was one of the best things I ever did.

I attended class all day and met many people who I have run into over the years. We had classes on everything from overviews of Cub Scouting to science experiments.

One class was something about putting pizzazz in your pack meetings. As I walked into the room, an eight-foot giant dressed in a clown suit greeted me.

"What a way to start a meeting!" he said.

When the class started, he got down from his stilts and explained that setting the tone is what it's all about. Going a step further, we discussed why boys become Cub Scouts and how you get their attention.

I thought my other classes would be tamer.

Of course, I was wrong.

I had an arts and crafts class. You would think that grown people would have little desire or need for plastic beads. You would be wrong.

Cub Scouters of all ages need to be recognized. Forget to give out those beads at the end of a session and the wrath of Scouters is upon you. I witnessed this in the arts and crafts session when they ran out of alphabet soup letters for the nametags we were gluing together.

It came to me that, with computers and electronic games, boys might be too sophisticated for this sort of thing. But don't be fooled, boys love activity, activity of any sort. The key, as I learned, is to keep them busy.

I took another session that was designed to give different ideas on awards ceremonies. I figured you call the boys up and hand them their patch, shake their hand, and send them off.

Wrong again. These guys did everything from smash fruit to brand leaders (using a rubber stamp, of course).

It was truly amazing the energy the adults put into this Cub Scout stuff.

Other courses taught me some of the things I needed to know to help the boys advance. We got instruction on paperwork and other mundane things like that. I knew it was all necessary, but much to my amazement, I wanted to get back and get more beads. The entire thing was just plain fun.

Looking back to that first pow wow, I realize that it got me fired up to go back to my den and bring Cub Scouting to the boys. The payoff came when I realized the boys wanted Cub Scouting and truly enjoyed what we were doing. They were having fun and learning at the same time. And they were not doing it because they had to; they did it because they wanted to.

That den of boys is in Boy Scouts now. But when I sit with those same boys today, they remember the things we did as Cub Scouts. The looks on their faces tell me we did something right.

Honestly, when I was starting, I did not have a clue. If it were not for the training that other volunteers took the time to make available, I would never have had the experiences I have had. More importantly, my son would not have had the experiences he has had.

Enjoy Cub Scouting. Attend pow wow and learn the right way to do things. Then have fun putting your lessons into action.

Mike Pannone served as a volunteer leader before becoming a professional Scouter. He is now senior district executive for the Mattatuck District in the Connecticut Rivers Council, Hartford, Conn. His essay first appeared in the council newsletter, The Connecticut Scouter.

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