Thursday, April 25, 2013

Effective Cub Scout Program Planning

Patriots' Path Council's vice president for membership and relations, Dr. Geoffrey Zoeller, discusses the newly updated national resources for Cub Scout Pack Planning .  "Research conducted by Eli Lilly of Indianapolis, Indiana, illustrated that strong packs all have in common good annual pack programs that are developed a year in advance.  These plans are then placed in a calendar and shared with all families right in the beginning of the year. This shows good organization, avoids conflicts later, attracts more families, and you'll retain Cub Scouts for longer.  Why wouldn't we all want to conduct strong and thoughtful program planning??"

There is an overview of the six steps of the Annual Program Planning Process and additional resources that include:
  • Pack calendar template that allows you to build and share your calendar with your families electronically or printed
  • Pack newsletter template so you can share regular information with your pack families
  • Posters, both letter size and tabloid size, which you can customize for your needs
  • Family Talent Survey form
  • Cub Scout Den Meeting Program form
  • Den and Pack Meeting Resource Guide
  • Boys' Life Planning Calendar
  • Boys' Life resources
  • Pack Budget Planning Guide/worksheets
The national BSA resources on Pack Planning can be accessed at:

Additionally, Dr. Zoeller notes that the Patriots' Path Council's own Cub Opportunities page allows for "one-stop-shopping" when it comes time for dropping in great council and district events to round out the Cub Scout Pack calendar.  Events like district family camping, the Belt Loop Midway and Bonanza events, fishing tournaments, and a whole host of days trips, museums, sporting events, and so much more!!

Be sure to visit this hugely important resource when planning for the coming year at:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Simple things a Council or Unit Commissioner can do to Increase Cub Scout Retention

Dr. Geoffrey Zoeller, Patriots' Path Council vice president for membership and relations, notes that "commissioners can make a huge difference in supporting and improving upon Cub Scouting programs.  This in turn can lead to dramatic increases in Cub Scout retention within individual units and council wide."

Some of these ideas are shared in the Commissioners of the Boy Scouts of America  Facebook page, which can be found at:

So, what are some simple things a Council or Unit Commissioner can do to increase Cub Scout retention?

 1. Every new Cub has a handbook. Promote to all parents purchasing and using the appropriate Cub Scout handbook—Tiger Cub, Wolf, Bear, Webelos Scout. It is the manual to glean the most out of Cub Scouting for their child.

 2. Studies show a trained Cub Scout leader retains Cubs longer. If den leader-specific tr...aining is not available before the first den meeting, have the new leader take Fast Start training. It is available on 

 3. All new Cubs earn the Bobcat Rank. Promote earning the Bobcat Rank within 60 days of Joining, and presenting the badge at the First Pack Meeting

 4. Promote Boy’s Life Magazine. Subscribing and reading Boy’s Life helps the boys experience Scouting even when he is not in a meeting

 5. First Den Meeting within 7 Days of joining. Quality den meetings are a critical tool for retention. Make sure every Cub and parent knows the date, time and place of the first den meeting before they leave the joining meeting.

 6. Communications. Promote frequent Communications between the Pack and parents on a regular basis: monthly newsletter, weekly contact using Facebook, Twitter, etc.

 7. Help all Packs find and have a den chief for each den. A good Den Chief serves as a role model for Cub Scouts, they look up to him and follow his lead on how they should act and behave. He serves as the “Big Brother” to the Den

 8. A well-planned program. Program planning is one of the most effective tools to retention. The pack must do their program planning in the spring of the year for 12 to 18 months, and distribute the plan to parents. Parents want to know what their Cubs will be doing

 9. Summertime Pack program. Keeping Cubs active and participating in Scouting over the summer months is an important retention tools. Cubs and families that enjoy a Scouting summer are more likely to stay involved in the Fall

 10. Orientation of all new Cubs and Parents. Successful parent orientation builds loyalty, lessens parent confusion, and reduces the potential of poor participation, which leads to retention through education. All families need to get the right information when they join.

 11. Leader Succession Planning. Help the Pack Committee understand the importance of planning in advance who will replace outgoing Den leaders and other pack leadership

Retention is all about Fun. Retention begins and ends at the unit level. The den and pack is where the most program happens and where the Cubs are most affected. So all meetings have to be FUN!!!!!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

7 Cub Scout Retention Tips

Dr. Geoffrey Zoeller, Patriots' Path Council vice president for membership and relations, observes that "one of the true strengths of the Scouting movement is our willingness to try new things, share ideas, and have frank conversations about what's working -- & what's not!!"

Today we share some of these great ideas in a post entitled "7 Cub Scout Retention Tips", which have been compiled by Mike Newman.  Like our own council's blog, Mike has been posting some very solid ideas on his site (which can be found at:

Let's take a look at some of the wisdom Mike shares with us ...

#1 – Be Active.


There has been a lot of brain research to come out recently (as discussed in The Minds of Boys by Michael Gurian) confirming what many of us already knew about how boys are different than girls. Some of these findings are discussed in the November 2005 Scouting Magazine article: “The Minds of Boys“. In particular, boys’ brains tend to shut down if they are having to just sit passively for a long period of time and be talked at.

If you want boys to have fun or learn something, you need to make sure that what you are doing is an activity, preferably a fun one. If you just talk on and on while the boys are having to sit and listen, they will be bored silly and won’t want to come back.

Keep your den and pack meetings focused on activities rather than the boys having to just sit and listen. If you need to cover something instructional, turn it into a game, a quiz, a contest– something where the boys are actually involved and doing things.

And preferably it should be something that gets them out of their chairs. Get them physically moving around. Play active games. Look at stuff. Go outside. These are the kinds of things that boys enjoy.
The more activities that you do with your pack or den, the more your boys will be having fun and will want to come back each week.

Make sure that the time they have to just sit still passively is kept to an absolute minimum. Link

#2 – Field Trips.

Boys love field trips, and parents usually like them also. Boys like variety. Going somewhere new is almost always fun and exciting for them.

I would recommend that you try to have a field trip during your regular meeting time every month.
Some of our pack’s field trips include a senior center visit to sing Christmas carols, visiting our local library, and seeing a nearby nature center.

Of course, you should be sure to get a local tour permit and to send a thank you note afterward. Some of our pack’s field trips help with advancements (e.g., visiting a police station), but others are just good Cub Scout fun.

Field trips are probably the aspect of our program that our boys and parents enjoy the most.

#3 – Outdoor Focus.


Spending time outdoors doing stuff like hiking and camping are what boys are really looking forward to when they join Cub Scouts.

Make sure that hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities are a central part of your program. If your pack does not have regular Cub Scout hikes, I would encourage you to start.

A good article on this subject is “Let’s Hit the Trail” from the October 2007 Scouting. It discusses how regular hikes can create a lot of excitement for a Cub Scout pack. In my pack, hikes are a big hit with the boys and parents.

Of course, any outdoor Cub Scout activities need to be done in accordance with the Guide to Safe Scouting including the Age-Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities.

Be sure that you promote in your pack Council-organized Cub Scout family camps and day camps. Boys who get to camp are the ones who are most excited about Cub Scouting.
Unfortunately, we live in a day and age when most kids are not getting to spend much time outside at all. Whether it’s due to playing video games and watching TV or concerns about possible child abductors, kids today are spending a lot less time outdoors than kids did a generation ago.

The May 2006 Scouting magazine article “Wonder of the Woods” has a very good discussion of this subject with Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Link

Doing outdoor hikes, games, and other activities with your Cub Scouts is not only what your boys would like to do, it’s also what’s good for them. (Photo: Scouting magazine.)

#4 – Stay in Touch.


Communication with your pack families is very important.

For example, I think it’s a good idea whenever a boy is absent for your Cub meetings/activities, to give his parents a call. At the very least, you should call when the boy has missed two meetings in a row. Most parents are very appreciative that someone noticed their son wasn’t there and is checking to see how he is doing. Of course, you shouldn’t say “Why wasn’t Tommy here tonight?” You can say “We just wanted to let you know that we missed Tommy at our last activity. Is he doing okay?” In my experience, parents are usually glad that someone has called. Staying in touch like this is often enough to keep a boy who misses a few meetings from dropping out altogether.

Of course, sometimes boys have to miss for an extended period of time due to sports activities. When that happens, I always tell them that’s fine. We just ask that they stay in touch with us and with what we are doing, and we’ll welcome them back when their sports season is over.

For scouts who have just joined your pack, the first few weeks of Cub activities are very important. Even though they are officially members of your pack, most parents during the first few weeks are still making up their minds on whether this scouting stuff is worth their time and effort. They are still in an assessment stage. Help them make the choice to stay with your pack. Be sure your pack is welcoming to new families and that they are introduced to pack and den leadership. They may have lots of questions. You should answer their questions, but don’t overwhelm them with information. It is important to stay in contact with parents during the first few weeks so they will decide that this is something they want to continue to be a part of.

Email is very helpful with pack communication. Regular email reminders about upcoming events and activities can help ensure good attendance. I also recommend making and distributing periodic newsletters with upcoming events, contacts, and frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) as well as announcements of rank badges that have been earned.

Speaking of advancements, be sure your scouts are progressing as they should on their rank badges. If you see that someone is not coming along on their badge, touch base and see if there are any problems that can be addressed. Getting the rank badges earned and awarded is not only important for the boy’s sake, it also helps keep the boys and their parents wanting to come back.
Good communication can have a big impact on Cub Scout retention and keeping your pack running well.

#5 – Summer.


Don’t stop your Cub Scout program for summer. Summer is when boys have the most free time on their hands, and it is when they need Cub Scouting the most.

“But won’t our boys and leaders be out of town on vacation during the summer?” Usually they will only be gone for a couple of weeks at most during the summer. Of course, you may need to pool your leadership resources on some weeks as some of your leaders are gone, but your pack boys and parents will be glad that your are still doing cool stuff during summer break.

Our pack started having an active summer program two summers ago, and it has worked out great for us. It has helped us with Cub retention over the summer and has been a big boost for May recruiting.
It is a lot easier to keep your scouts coming to your scouting program in the fall if you haven’t stopped for a three-month break. Cub Scouts are much more likely to drop out in the fall if they haven’t done any Cub Scout activities all summer.

Having an active summer can help with May recruiting as a lot of parents in May are looking for something for their kids to do during the summer. Cub Scouts is a great thing for boys to be doing during the summer.


Having an active summer program can qualify your boys to earn the National Summertime Pack Award (Link) and can help them earn the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award (Link).
This link is to a good article from the May 2002 Scouting magazine on the benefits of having an active summer program. Link

Cub Scouting in the summer is great. If your pack doesn’t have a summer program, now is the time to start.

#6 – Schedule.


Making and distributing a schedule several months in advance can be a boost for your pack in several ways.

For one thing, it will make your pack look fun and exciting. Just telling your scouts and parents that your pack does hiking, camping, outdoor games, Pinewood Derby, etc. is fine, but it is more convincing if you can hand out a schedule that shows that you have committed your plans to paper.
A schedule will also help with new scout recruiting. Your schedule will show new recruits that your pack is well-run, organized, and lots of fun. It will help convince boys and their families that your Cub Scout program is where they want to be. Making a schedule will also help ensure that your pack follows through and does the Cub Scouting things your boys would like to do.

The best way to be sure your pack does things like hiking and camping is to set a date, make a schedule, and get it distributed. If you don’t make a schedule, it is easier for your pack to let the time slip by and not do the stuff you hoped you would.

In our pack, we hand out a 1st-3rd grader schedule (Link) and a Webelos schedule (Link) every few months to let our scouts and families know what events and activities are coming up with our pack. We use the same (or similar) flyers for our recruiting. Our schedules have helped our pack a great deal with recruiting new boys and with retaining our current members.

The important thing is to plan cool Cub Scouting stuff and distribute your schedule so current scouts and potential recruits will know about the awesome stuff boys in your pack get to do.

#7 – Webelos Appeal.


Although the boys in your pack are all kids, they are not all young kids. They probably range from 6 to 11 years old.

There is a lot of difference between 6 and 7 year olds and 10 and 11 year olds. Some activities that are a lot of fun for your Tiger and Wolf dens would be way too young and kiddie-ish for most Webelos Scouts.

It’s not a great idea to have your entire pack doing an activity that will make your Webelos Scouts feel like they are back in nursery school. For example, singing “I’m a Little Teapot” can be a lot of fun for your Tigers, but if you make your Webelos join in many songs like that, they may just look at each other and say “We’re too old for this.” and not come back.

One of the great things about putting on a Cub Scout program is seeing how much boys grow and develop from the time they are first grade Tigers until they are fifth-grade Webelos. Be sure most of your pack activities are designed for the interests and needs of all your boys.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kickball Tournament & Marshmallow Roast to Recruit/Engage Kindergarten Families

Patriots' Path Council vice president of membership/relations, Dr. Geoffrey Zoeller, notes that "next year's Tigers and Tiger Leaders are in our schools right now -- they are our Kindergarteners.  We need to make every effort to meaningfully engage families during the Kindergarten year.  Strategies for making connections with Kindergartners are crucial.  Also be sure to keep an eye out for which of their parents/guardians might make good adult leaders."

One great idea is to hold a Kickball Tournament and Marshmallow Roast.  It can be for just Kindergarteners, a combined event with your current Tiger Den, it can be a school-wide activity -- you decide what works best for you.

Learning kickball skills and chatting up Kindergarten parents can strengthen your unit!

The Kickball Belt Loop makes for a great hook.  Tigers can earn the belt loop and Kindergarteners wish they were already Scouts so they could get it too!

Be sure to award it then and there.  It is also an effective means of introducing prospective Scouting families to one aspect of the Cub Scouting awards program.

This belt loop is quite age-appropriate for Tigers and Kindergarteners, and the basic skills to earn the award are easily introduced, practiced, and mastered.

The three requirements are easy to achieve as part of the overall activity:
  1. Explain the rules of kickball to your leader or adult partner.
  2. Spend 30 minutes practicing the skills of kickball (pitching, kicking, base running, catching, throwing). This may be over two different practice periods.
  3. Play a game of kickball.
What great den meeting doesn't end with a tasty snack?  In this case, a Marshmallow Roast over an open fire can help get Kindergarten boys excited and allows them to see one of many activities they will be able to participate in if they start going on camping/outdoor activities with the pack.  A table with graham crackers and chocolate will allow families to make yummy s'mores (see:'more and

A small controlled fire is the best and will put parents at ease.
Long, thin dowels from Home Depot or Lowes make great roasting sticks.
Note the safety circle drawn on the ground and have safety equipment close by.

Be creative, but keep it fun.  Baden-Powell said it best when he spoke of "fun with a purpose".  Earning a belt loop, having fun, eating s'mores, and recruiting new families and leaders -- now that's a purpose we can all agree on!

For some other kickball resources, go to: