The Fun Is Outdoors!

By Suzanne Wilson
Photographs by Brian Payne

An Iowa pack earns the new Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award, the first patch Cub Scouts can wear on a uniform shirt pocket flap.

"It's a really great honor," said Webelos Scout Jonah Tweedy, 10, as he examined the new Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award he had just received. "It's hard to get a patch you sew on. Usually you get a pin or belt loops."

Jonah is right. The patch is the first-ever designed to be sewn on a pocket flap of the Cub Scout uniform (the right flap).

Half of the patch shows a dark blue night sky with a crescent moon and the Big Dipper; the other half is a daytime sky with the sun and an oak leaf.

Scouter Brad Miller, of Troop 141, Granger, Iowa, helps enthusiastic Cub Scouts from Pack 280 tackle the job of repairing a hiking trail. "This is fun," one boy summed up as the Cub Scouts completed the Outdoor Award's optional service project requirement.

"It looks great," observed Jonah. "And it represents what I do. I play outside in the day, and at night I look at the stars."

The award also represented a year's fun in the outdoors for Jonah and other members of Pack 280, in West Des Moines, Iowa.

They received their awards during an overnighter last October at the Mid-Iowa Council's Camp Mitigwa. During the presentation, council Scout Executive Ely Brewer assured the Cub Scouts that Pack 280 was among the first packs to earn the new award.

Earn it again...and again

Introduced in August 2004, the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award offers an ongoing opportunity for all Tiger Cubs, Wolf and Bear Cub Scouts, and Webelos Scouts, because a boy can earn it each year that he's in Cub Scouting. Those who have earned the award for the first time (the pocket flap patch) can add a wolf track pin to the flap patch each year they complete a new set of requirements.

(Editor's note: The National Summertime Pack Award is another award Cub Scouts wear pinned on the center of the right pocket flap. If a Cub Scout earns both the Outdoor Activity Award and the National Summertime Pack Award, the activity award patch should be affixed to the pocket flap first. Then the National Summertime Pack Award pin should be pinned through the center of the patch. Subsequent summertime award pins and/or Outdoor Activity Award wolf track pins should also be affixed through the patch.)

The award guidelines list 13 possible activities, including adventures like participating in a nature hike, an outdoor sporting event, and a pack overnighter. Tiger Cubs should complete three activities; Wolf Cub Scouts, four; Bear Cub Scouts, five; and Webelos Scouts, six.

There's an additional activity for each rank, completing a requirement from the handbook. For example, Bear Cub Scouts earn the Cub Scout Leave No Trace Award (Bear Handbook, Elective 25h).

This award fits in

If a pack has an active outdoor program in place, the award fits in easily.

For boys who are full of energy, Pack 280 leaders know that outdoor fun is essential. "They like that the best," said Pack 280 Cubmaster Pat Baldus. "We encourage it in den meetings, too.

"We looked at our calendar to see what we as a pack traditionally do, what activities we had planned that would meet the requirements."

Veteran outdoorsman Adolph Peschke (author of the BSA's Pioneering merit badge pamphlet) teaches Webelos Scout Joshua Higginbottom how to whip the end of nylon rope.

Then leaders looked at activities the pack wasn't covering.

One requirement for all ranks is to attend Cub Scout day camp or Cub Scout/Webelos Scout resident camp.

"A lot of boys already attend camp," Baldus said, "but now we really encouraged it, because we knew about the opportunity to earn this award."

The camp experience plays an important part in boys continuing in Scouting, says Scout Executive Brewer. "If a Cub Scout goes to camp in summer, he's likely to return to his pack in the fall."

For packs that haven't developed a strong outdoor program, the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award can be an incentive and a guide for delivering the experiences kids expect.

"Den leaders can put their arms around the idea" of the award, said Brian VandeVenter, past Pack 280 Cubmaster and now assistant Cubmaster. "If that happens, it takes off."

The kickoff

Cubmasters typically explain the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award to Cub Scouts and their parents in the fall. That way, everyone will be looking forward to a year of outdoor fun plus a valued recognition, the pocket flap award or the wolf paw print pin.

During Pack 280's overnighter, Cubmaster Baldus kicked off their second year of earning the award. "Cub Scouts now have a cool pocket flap patch they can earn," he said.

And there it was, pictured on the front of booklets he had put together by downloading from the BSA Web site ( and printing out the award guidelines, then adding Leave No Trace guidelines and information about Camp Mitigwa.

Pack 280 had exceeded the award requirements the first year they participated, Baldus told the campers. "We've done nine of the 13 activities this past year."

Service projects: fun, not work

The award activities list includes No. 5, "Complete an outdoor service project in your community," and No. 6, "Complete a nature/conservation project in your area. This project should involve improving, beautifying, or supporting natural habitats. Discuss how this project helped you to respect nature."

Service projects are nothing new for Pack 280. In fact, they are a regular part of the pack program calendar. Before school starts each fall, members pick up trash, trim bushes, and weed flowerbeds at Fairmeadows School, where the school's parent/faculty club is the pack's chartered organization. The Scouts have also cleared brush at a wildlife refuge.

Blake Porter, 8, enjoyed helping improve a portion of a trail at Camp Mitigwa during the overnighter. "This is fun," he commented on the "work."

"To them, it's not work; it's fun," echoed Tracy Porter, Blake's mother and an assistant den leader. She says service projects are important, especially those involving the environment. "The kids learn a lot, and they'll respect nature more after they've been involved in a project."

Boys and parents agree

Outdoors, boys tend to open up about their enthusiasm for nature, and camping.

Carson VandeVenter, 8, said: "I just like to get outside, to see the wildlife. I like to sing campfire songs. I like to help cook and set up the tents. And I also like the hot chocolate."

"I like looking into the trees, and sometimes you can see animals and different-colored leaves," said Webelos Scout Keegan Hockett, 10, an acute observer who knows what he likes.

"I like looking in the sky and seeing birds. I also like hiking a lot, [but] I don't like mosquitoes," he stated. "I've learned how to identify some kinds of leaves, different kinds of animals, how to build a fire, sharpen a pocketknife, and cook in foil packs."

The Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award not only fits into a pack's program schedule, it also fits a parent's idea of what Cub Scouting should be.

"It's cool," said Connie Hockett, Keegan's mother and a Webelos Scout den leader, of the award. "We [already] do all [of the required activities] with our boys anyway, but for packs that aren't as active, it will help to have those guidelines."

And it's great to be recognized for outdoor activities, she added, because "the outdoor part is the best part of Scouting."

Contributing editor Suzanne Wilson lives in Joplin, Mo.

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