Oct 19, 2009 at 8:43 am #1240376
I'll preface this by saying that I was never a Scout; I'm 44 years old with an 8 year old daughter in Girl Scouts and a six year old first grade son.
My first grade son and I just joined Tiger Cub Scouts, with me as den leader. The Tiger Cub model of Boy/Parent teams for all first-year activities seems like a great idea. I think it will be great fun and offer good learning opportunities. I've scheduled the meetings for weekday evenings to hopefully involve as many dads as possible.
Unfortunately after spending the weekend going through online training and the Cub leader materials I ended up sorely discouraged about just how low an opinion BSA seems to have of children's outdoor aptitude.
I want to encourage every parent out there to believe that your kids can do almost anything, and work with them to achieve it. I agree with BSA that things need to be taken a step at a time, and that risk should be very carefully analyzed and managed. Still- to require that all campouts until fourth grade be "pack family campouts"?
On a scouting forum I was given encouragement that there are plenty of family camping opportunities and that younger scouts are encouraged to do hikes. Apparently Webelos has an "Outdoorsman Pin" that requires a 3 mile hike (at age 9 or 10). Funny, my son did many 6+ mile hikes at age 5.
I don't expect every kid to have been camping since birth like my son, or to have gone on his first backpack trip at age 5. Still, I really think that an organization like BSA could work a bit faster in the outdoor skill advancement than waiting until they're teenagers for the first backpack trip.
I will give Scouting a fair trial; I think the main reason to be involved is to build boys' character. The selling point to boys has always been the outdoor activities which seem amazingly limited. Based on my daughters' troop it appears that Girl Scouts get to do things a full two years (or more) younger than Boy Scouts.
Thanks for letting me vent.Oct 19, 2009 at 8:54 am #1537683
@nerdboy52Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Although it doesn't happen often, occasionally scouts die or are seriously injured during a a backpacking experience.
Last year, a cub scout died from dehydration during a relatively short hike at Tar Hollow State Park, a well maintained (by the scouts themselves) set of trails complete with a camp reserved for scouts.
Kids aren't as outdoor savvy as they used to be. My neighborhood used to be full out kids outdoors, but these days, it looks like a tomb. The kids are all indoors doing the XBox thing, or whatever.
It's frustrating, I know. But kids have to be led slowly away from the dark side. I always say that if anyone was every hurt seriously at one of the nighttime public programs (no lights!) at my observatory, I'd have to shut down the public programs. I just couldn't live with myself. We tend to be over-cautious, especially with children.
Since that cub scout died, I haven't seen many scouts on the Ohio trails. What a sad, sad shame — both for the family of the scout who passed but also for the many scouts who will miss the experience because of the natural desire of adult scout leaders to be over-cautious after an event of this sort.
Just my two cents. I could be wrong.
StargazerOct 19, 2009 at 8:58 am #1537685
@akajutLocale: Central Oklahoma
I thought Cub Scouts was extremely boring. If it hadn't been for a Troop Open House camp out with a Troop that was rappelling, I never would have gone on to get my Eagle.Oct 19, 2009 at 8:59 am #1537686
@foundLocale: Sacramento, CA
If the BSA's guidelines sound dumb, why not just ignore them? The troop is as strong as it's adult leaders. My troop was fantastic in the outdoor realm and we openly ignored much of what the BSA had to say.Oct 19, 2009 at 9:16 am #1537693
I think the important thing to remember your statement that most kids haven't grown up camping like your son. You should only go as fast (or slow) as the slowest member of your group. I agree 100% that Scouting at all levels now is guided largly by the prevention of liability, at the expense of the program. But it sounds like your expectations might have been a little high for both Cub Scout, and the average 1st grader. Doesn't mean you're wrong though, and I understand. We've had 6th graders in our troop who were wiped out by a 3 mile hike, and that is more of the norm these days. We went on an overnight last weekend, and one kid's mom sent him with money, and told him to tell us to stop at Subway and get his sack lunch. At 7am. I wouldn't tell you to ignore BSA policy, but I know we push it on occasion. Just remember, when it comes to their children, parents don't believe in accidents, it's your fault, and BSAs.
I hope you stick with it; the people who have the much needed expertise (like you) often get frustrated and quit, and another generation of kids only sees the outdoors in video games.Oct 19, 2009 at 10:03 am #1537712
Well I am a veteran Scouter and I went from cubs all the way to Eagle and have been and adult leader ever since. I have been in Scouts for 38 years. BUT, my son on the other hand. He joined Scouts as a cub and got bored very quick and he gave it up until Webelos when he joined back for the 2nd year of Webelos and then on to Boy Scouts. He is now 14 and a Life Scout and ready for Eagle.
Cub Scouts can be very boring if the pack does the same things over and over a again, and never does anything outdoors.
And, you have to remember BSA assumes no one knows anything and everyone needs to be taught the proper way to do everything, that helps protect them.Oct 19, 2009 at 11:27 am #1537734
I share your thoughts in some respects, I'm also a leader and my son has been going on overnight and weekend hikes with me for several years.
The primary reason to follow the rules is protection from liability. If you don't have a tour permit and aren't operating according to the guide to safe scouting, then you will not be covered by BSA's liability insurance. You as the group leader can be held financially responsible for a disaster.
If you have kids that are into backpacking in your den, or parents who want to be, I don't think that "family camping" is specifically defined to exclude things like overnighters as long as it includes more than one den.
The other option is to not have it officially associated with the den and just have it be friends and family hiking where there's no BSA involvement, you're not the leader and everyone is responsible for their own kid. I should mention that my son and I are heading down to Okefenokee in a couple weeks for just such an unofficial outing.Oct 19, 2009 at 9:37 pm #1537920
I knew you guys would offer encouragement. On a Scouting web forum I also got some encouragement- but also responses that my 6 year old probably has more outdoor experience than some of their Eagles.
I'll work within the system. If that means only Pack family camp outs no problem- you can bet we'll do a lot of them even if it's pretty low turnout. I won't try to bypass the rules- I understand that they are based on risk management for a large organization which is different than how I manage risk for my family.
Of the 8 boys interested so far I think we're the only ones who camp more than maybe once a year. We'll figure out where the boys interests coincide with the parents willingness and go from there.
OTOH at least one of first year Webelos and his dad are pushing for more adventure. So with them pulling and us pushing we might get this little pack moving. Until this year they've been satisfied with one autumn overnighter at the scout park in the heart of our city, with a spring weekend campout at a National Forest group site.Oct 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm #1537945
@climberslackerLocale: Your guess is as good as mine.
The program as a whole really does. I was a WEBLOS scout for 2 years, then became a boy scout. PLEASE PLEASE dont base your opinions on the Boy Scout program on your cub experience. I know that my scoutmaster wouldnt LET his son be a cub scout because he was afraid he would drop out and not join scouts. Just let your son try cub scouts, and if he doesnt like it, dont push him to be in it. Let him be a Boy Scout when he is older. Or just do what I did, and be a Weblos scout for 2 years so I could get my arrow of light, and join the real program earlier. Now Im preforming the Arrow of light ceremonies with Order of the Arrow, and having a blast. Boy scouts is infinatly better then cubs. It just is. And Order of the Arrow and ventureing are even better.
just my 2 cents.
-JaceOct 20, 2009 at 5:47 am #1537992
"I know cub scouts suck…"
Is that the fault of the program itself (National Committee, Risk management, lowest common denominator, etc…)? Or is it because they don't want to change the Boy Scout program by having the Cubs already doing more adventurous stuff? Or is it the fault of local packs and dens just following the "Program Helps" book and not putting real energy, thought and innovation into their program?
Bringing this full circle to BPL- I could see why BSA wouldn't start backpacking until 11 or so if they had to carry the 1980's standard kit with 20-30 pound base weight. We know better though.Oct 20, 2009 at 6:26 am #1538004
@aroth87Locale: Missouri Ozarks
I was never in Cub Scouts either, pine wood derby was that appealing to me :D. But my brother was in Webelos and when he crossed over to Scouts he and my dad came back from a camp out and raved about how much fun it was. Camping was interesting to me and I joined at the next meeting.
I've helped with a lot of Boy Scout and Cub Scout events since that time and here's the conclusion I've some to. Cub Scouts is going to seem lame if you've already got a background in the outdoors. You have to realize that for the majority of people an outdoor getaway is going to the state park or KOA, hoping to find an empty campsite, and setting up the camper. If they are really rugged they'll have a tent and go on the short nature/interpretive trails. Things get a little in Boy Scouts but it is really dependent on the troop.
There were three troops in the town a grew up in. Two of them went to summer camp every year and did just enough camping to get the merit badge and even then only if the weather was supposed to be nice. The troop my brother, dad, and I joined planned a camp out or hike for every month of the year, and went to summer camp and had an annual family float trip. We had Scouts and their parents go to Philmont and Northern Tier. Our Scouting experience was rooted in our enjoyment of being outdoors. There are many troops that have that focus, but there are plenty that are simply merit badge factories and glorified baby-sitting services.
All troops are not created equal. There are some that are run by retired military men that never seem to have left, some troops are Scout-led (what a concept!), others are run by career Scouters who wear the green and khaki everyday and regard the Handbook as scripture, some are more or less outdoor clubs, others are just there to get the boys to Eagle by age 15. Unless there are no other troops in the area I would encourage you to go to other troops and see if their idea of what Scouting should be jives with yours.
And if you don't click with any of them there are plenty of successful people, with great relationships with their parents, that aren't Eagle Scouts and were never involved in Scouting.
PS- The uniform the Scouts are wearing at the meeting can be a good indicator. I never owned or wore the Scout shorts, socks, or neckerchief. At our meeting we wore our khaki, class A shirts if school was in session and red, class B t-shirts during the summer. For Court-of-Honor we would add our merit badge sash, camping beads, and OA sash. We didn't require anything else. We weren't in it for the image or to be advertisements, we just wanted to have fun.Oct 20, 2009 at 11:17 am #1538123
@cuzzettjLocale: NorCal - South Bay
I think you are dead on. Add the Family camping and if people come fantastic.
There were plenty of times the family campouts I put together turned into 2-3 families and myself hanging out for the weekend. I didn't care. Those boys got more done, learned more skills, learned to cook and prepare meals better, and I think we, as parents, actually had a better time not stressing about 12 or 15 different parent personalities.
Go for it and make it fun. I do agree following the rules pretty closely and turning in the BSA permits are mandatory for your own peace. I have heard nightmare stories about people who haven't and medical emergencies you didn't know about becoming an issue.
I went to Wood Badge training. That helped me integrate alot of good Boy Scouting ideals into the Cub Scouting framework. Like search and rescue games, and leadership training. The kids really like taking turns being in charge.Oct 24, 2009 at 6:25 pm #1539377
If you examine Cub Scouting you will see that the activities "approved" are developmentally targeted to fine motor skills that boys sometimes develop more slowly than girls.
Some of these skills are learning to use pocket knives, making things with hand tools, and learning to listen are sometimes tough for little guys.
The program was contrived and modified in the post WW II era when small boys were expected to play outside, make noise, run, jump, get dirty and play make-believe games with their imaginations and friends, ie., gross motor skills
In addition they learn to handle the flag, to spend time with other boys not just their siblings, and to see and interact with different adults.
One problem I see in Cub Scouts and their older siblings as a teacher now is a complete lack of gross motor skills because there childhoods don't allow it. They can score a goal in soccer, but can't climb a tree. They can swim 50 laps in a pool but can't catch a fish or bathe in a lake or river (too cold). They can sbowboard but cant walk more than a mile.
I raised a son and participated as a leader in Cubs and Scouting. He's an Eagle Scout and has about every outdoor experience the troop and BSA offer.
If I were a leader in Cubbing again I would make 50% of the Pack's activities physical and outdoors.
Den day hikes on a Saturday morning instead of a den meeting after school or at night OR a night hike in a neighborhood park with flashlights. (Boys love flashlights, so do gearhead dads)
"Stone" Soup Minestrone -Have boys read this book with their parents or have their parents read it to them and at the pack meeting have each den bring a different can or ingriediant and make a big pot of soup outdoors on a campfire or portable fire pit in the pack meeting site parking lot
Green Honor Den Have all ride a bike or walk to the pack meeting…Have a Green Honor Den…Den with the most walkers or bike riders or skateboarders or rode scooters to the meeting gets the award
You just need to be creativeOct 24, 2009 at 10:01 pm #1539431
@pjstarichLocale: N. Rocky Mountains
A lot of bashing going on here. I truly feel the need to stand up for the Cub Scout program.
First and foremost, scouting is not for everyone and it sounds from your blog that it's not for you. If Cub Scouting doesn't meet your expectations, don't waste your time bashing it, move on and put your kid in a different program. From the content of your notes…you've had good success schooling your son in the outdoor skills. You shouldn't expect Cub Scouting to deliver the same level of outdoor experience. But before you yank your kid from the program, why don't you ask him if he's having fun and if he wants to stay?
Cub Scouting is not, and never was, intended to be a high adventure program for elementary school kids. It's focus is developing citizenship, building character, and physical fitness. The outdoor program is only one of its methods and not its emphasis.
It's also not just a club for little boys. It's a program that strengthens family relationships, fosters parent-child bonding, and provides numerous parenting opportunities. A strong pack has many participating adults modeling good parent behaviors in a highly cooperative social setting.
The hallmark of a successful Cub Scouting program is to prepare young boys for the high adventure activities of Boy Scouting. A successful Cubmaster will "graduate" a highly motivated group of 5th grade Webelos into a local troop and get them so excited about Boy Scouting they can't wait to join.
That said, a Cub Scout program is only as fun as the adult leaders make it. Many packs conduct great family campouts once or twice per year. Some more often. They are not ultra-light backpacking trips. They are more often intensive car camps that take a lot of planning and often involve many scouts, parents, and siblings. The Saturday night campfire resembles a variety show. My son's last Cub Scout family campout was attended by over 150 people and he still talks about it. In all situations, the pack leadership must follow the policies and guidelines described in the Guide to Safe Scouting. Today my son is an experienced ultra-light wilderness backpacker and working on Eagle rank.
If you want to add some energy to the program, I'm sure the Cubmaster of your son's pack would really value your help with the outdoor program. If the pack leadership is uninspired and lethargic, why not show some leadership and help them out of their rut? If your son is not having a great time with his best friends, move on.Oct 24, 2009 at 10:40 pm #1539436
I attended the Cub Scouts "BALOO" or Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation training today. It gave me a much better idea of what Cub Scout camping is all about. Not high adventure but lots of outdoor activities that are fun for the boys.
We'll make this work. It doesn't need to be lightweight backpacking to be a fun outdoor activity. We already do way more car camping than backpacking anyhow- my son has spent about 10% of his entire life car camping but only two short backpacking trips. They're different but both lots of fun.Nov 17, 2009 at 8:17 pm #1546014
@winterwarlockLocale: Western NY
I have to say that I too was underwhelmed by Cub Scouts, but understand that today's Cub Scout programs are very very basic, and have different goals than when I was young. Even our Boy Scout troop seems tamer than we were as kids, but I think that is a general trend in kids' programs these days. Two things prevail – one, liability issues, and two, setting the program to the least capable so as to include everyone. I think in the past the program tried to raise up the least capable, but now it works the opposite.
But…if you go into Scouting with the attitude of taking the best of it for yourself and your child, it's still a very worthwhile program. Learn from it, share as much as you and your experienced son can, and hopefully you can raise the knowledge level of the rest of them.
Also, I would highly recommend the book "Last Child in the Woods", by Richard Louv….a great insight into today's kids and their lack of 'nature intelligence'. It may give you some insight into the other kids, and how the Cub Scout program has evolved over the years to what it is now.Nov 17, 2009 at 10:27 pm #1546033
Your concerns are not uncommon, being a Cub Scout leader or even a helper can be very overwhelming. I didn't read the whole thread so I'm not sure if you are a Cubmaster, or a leader of a specific group. But, if you are doing Webelos, remember what that means: Webelos = "We'll Be Loyal Scouts"
You've got to keep them exited about being a cub scout AND balance in exposing them to some of the fun things Boy Scouts do, otherwise if they are babied in the Cub Scout program, they will NOT do well in Boy Scouts. Cub Scouts is all about getting buys exited about Scouting so they will be loyal scouts. Get them exited about becoming a Boy Scout. They SHOULD look forward to getting out of Cub Scouts and becoming a Boy Scout, otherise, (with all due respect), your Cub Scout Pack (and especially your Webelos group) is just a buch of little babied boys, not young men.
cheersDec 2, 2009 at 8:56 am #1549592
@tpeterson1959Locale: Pacific Northwest
When my (now 24 year old) son joined Cubs, he was very much like your son. I was asked to be the Den Leader because I knew more about Scouting and the outdoors in general than all the other parents.
We were very active in the outdoors – and we accomplished all the goals that Cubs at various ranks were supposed to accomplish. The even bigger accomplishment was that we were able to share our knowledge and experience with boys and their parents – many of whom wanted the knowledge, but never had the opportunity for a wide variety of reasons.
As often as possible, we held our meeting outside – even in the winter. I just warned everybody that they needed to be dressed appropriately. By the time the boys were in the Bear Den, they all knew how to build a fire (in Boy Scouts, there were a few boys who didn't know how to strike a match) and how to dress for the weather. The boys all got to where they knew a 2 mile hike would take them about two hours if the stopped to look for plants and animals, and that they could all do a five mile hike.
Stick with it and know that you'll be helping families learn to enjoy the outdoors – and as you do, they'll end up helping you, too.Dec 2, 2009 at 9:52 am #1549604
+1 on the kids who come from Webelos to Scouts that don't know how to strike a match. Or wash a dish. Or which side of a knife to slice a tomato with. Or……..Dec 2, 2009 at 10:39 am #1549613
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I feel for you. I started Cub Scouts over 40 years ago. In those days, we had Den Mothers. Fathers led the Boy Scout troops. Scouting was popular, and we would wear our uniforms to school on special days. At the time I lived in the South Bay area of Calif. Campouts were always in someone's back yard. I opted out of continuing to Boy Scouts as I was more interested in sports. Additionally, I got into backpacking in high school, and my adventures really but the local Boy Scout troop to shame. I think part of this is that I lived in suburbia. I know it is different in rural areas, as I would often run into groups of scouts in the southern Sierras where I was cutting my young teeth on the BPing fever in the 1960's.
Fast forward to the early 90's. I got my son and daughter into scouting. Unfortunately, scouting was no longer popular and in Palm Springs and Orange County where the kids joined troops. Scouts were regarded as nerds. Although both kids were popular in school, luckily (or good parenting?) they could care less what their friends thought about Scouting. But both of them were really bored with the silly activities that took up most of the time. Both of them enjoyed camping and hiking with the other kids, other than the fact they had been doing this at a "higher" level with me since they were babies.
As far a backpacking, don't hold you hopes too high. When Joe was 7 – 9 years old, one of his favorite things to do was to BP with me in the San Jacintos, so he could blow by all the older Boy Scouts on the trail to the summit of San Jacinto. Since you live in So Calif, I am afraid it will be similar. If you lived in Moab, UT or Bozeman, Mt it is probably a lot differnt.
If your kids enjoy Scouting, then stay with it. If they don't like it, then let them pass. Since I know you do a lot of camping and BPing with the family, this family activity is much better for building character. Our family camped a lot together. The long vacations with just the family helped us bond together and keep the communication always flowing between us and the kids. I never had a single discipline problem with either kid. They were honor students and participated in activities to the point that it was a full time job to go to all their practices and competitions. Joe was a nationally recognized elite distance runner in High School, and Nicole was in Cheerleading and Dance. Nicole graduated from college last year and Joe will do the same this spring. In my mind, their success in life at this point in time, is rooted in the quality time we spent as a family on the trail and in campgrounds. Nicole is not interested in BPing, but she still likes to ocassionally go camping with me. Joe does BP.Dec 2, 2009 at 10:56 am #1549617
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
It's all about the troop, and its leaders.
We had den mothers in my Cub Scout Troop. But I was one of the den leaders for five years and took a group from Tigers to Webelos.
We camped a lot, we built fires, we pitched tarps, we learned navigation, we did outdoor stuff. We didn't do a lot of crafts. Not my thing. My goal was to prepare them for Boy Scouting.
We even went backpacking as Webelos.
Last year we took our Webelos into Boy Scouting, and we shopped our troop and leaders after interviewing them, visiting their troops, and seeing their activity calendars.
I just participated in my first annual planning meeting as one of the Assistant Scoutmasters of my troop.
We're going backpacking a lot this year.
And we're going to learn a lot of ultralight techniques.
Because it's what I'm volunteering to teach, and bring, to the troop, and I have the support of the leaders, and the boys. They are stoked for their next year of adventure.
So what's your troop going to be about?
You decide, because you're the ones volunteering to support it. The boys desperately want to lead their own troop (a good thing) but they will have the confidence and excitement to be adventurous if the adults are, as well.Dec 2, 2009 at 11:25 am #1549624
Nick, Ryan, Scouts;
Thanks for your words. Clearly what I'm learning is that the Den/Pack/Troop is what we make it. I have misgivings over joining the neighborhood pack because it is weak in leadership, ideas, and enthusiasm. Luckily though the Webelos will move out and new Tigers will move in, along with their families and ideas. For this year my sole Scouting focus is the Tigers and recruiting next year's Tigers.
National/Council/District direction seems to be aimed at a slow progression over 10 years from soft kindergarteners to Scouting's version of "high adventure". I think that progression is just too slow. The trick will be to encourage more rapid progression without preventing new recruits and the less-able.
One way that I hope to do that is to start on the "patrol" concept early. "The Cub Scout makes the Pack Go." Teamwork is good- and is an especially important skill in the wilderness.
Our initial Den of 4 boys is now up to 6, with two more planning to join after Christmas. Most of the boys and their parents are excited about outdoor activities, unlike what I see in the rest of the Pack.
Tonight we're going to build a campfire, roast S'mores, and tell our family holiday traditions.Dec 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm #1549637
Now THAT is a nice example of Being the change you want to see. Very Nice!Dec 4, 2009 at 6:40 am #1550284
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
"National/Council/District direction seems to be aimed at a slow progression over 10 years from soft kindergarteners to Scouting's version of "high adventure". I think that progression is just too slow. The trick will be to encourage more rapid progression without preventing new recruits and the less-able."
Amen. I think scouting is a great program. As others have noted, it is more needed than ever given the profusion of video games and the like. I'm very happy to see so many of you with strong opinions and commitments on the subject.
The citizenship and team building aspects of scouting are important, but I think they'll happen best in a context. Young boys like to have adventures! When I started in cub scouts 20 years ago, I was one of the kids how was too often bored with the conservative activities and trips. Part of that was my bad attitude, but most of it was the lack of ambition and ability of most of the leaders. I hope you guys change that (and I'll do my part when kids come my way).
On the other hand, there are certain places in the country (Utah!) where scout troops have a horrendous reputation for getting in over their heads. If you teach a kid good wilderness habits early, they'll keep them for life.
Keep up the good work, fellas.
We should keep in mind that if we think boy scouts are boring/slow/not serving the kids well enough, just look at girl scouts! For the love of pete, take your daughter's camping/hiking/adventuring too!Jan 31, 2010 at 7:11 pm #1568390
@brnpaLocale: Philly suburbs
I'm the leader of a Cub Scout pack in PA and we consider ourselves "high adventure": We camp at least three times a year, have night hikes and spend a lot of time in the woods. All of our kids are comfortable doing this and all the parents are engaged, which is the key. If you feel that the pack is not going in the direction you want, step up and volunteer to be a den or pack leader. You'll have a lot of input and can "shape the game". Don't sit on the sidelines and complain. The kids always respond better to adults that are active than those who are not.
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