The New Cub Scout Adventure Program

wolf_woodburnI don’t often write about Cub Scouting – there are lots of resources out there for Cub leaders. But once in a while, something super exciting comes along that merits a look, even for old jaded “seen-it-all” Scouters.

Last week, I covered some of the coming updates to Boy Scouting, including additions to the program and some of the reorganization. But without boys to take advantage of the updates, they’ll be for naught, and our primary source of boys in Boy Scouts is Cub Scouting. And, unless Cub Scouting is kept exciting, relevant and interesting, our Cub numbers will continue to shrink.

Enter the Cub Scout Adventure Program!

It appears as if Cub Scouting is about to be reinvented, to take it away from a formula checklist of activities and lessons and move toward a series of adventure experiences that dens can share and take part in together. This is great news, not only for the boys, but for leaders as well. Rather than keeping track of activities toward achievements, and achievements toward ranks (with intermediate recognition along the way) and a maze of “one from column A, two from column B, and this doesn’t count if you do that” organization (Bear leaders, ¬†you know what I’m talking about!), Cub dens will embark on a series of adventures, roughly one per month, and the rank is earned once the core adventures are completed. It will help move away from boys doing a list of requirements to doing the things that Scouts do, further defining our movement more by who we are than by what we do.

The new model takes a cue from the current Tiger Cub program, the basis of which is five achievements, each consisting of three elements including a “Go-See-It.” The Adventure Program will extend that model to the Wolf and Bear core programs. Each achievement has three parts, one of which can include a field trip, and achievements are intended to take three den meetings to complete. As with the current program, there are elective activities along the same lines, which can be done once the core achievements are complete. Each rank has just five core achievements, and each achievement will have some kind of recognition item the boys can wear, replacing the current Tiger Tracks and Progress toward Ranks beads. And rather than the current lesson plans, we’re promised a den leader guidebook for each rank, so the leader can visualize the entire year in one publication.

These Adventure Program achievements are just that – adventure for the boys, and fun for the parents and leaders. The topics they cover incorporate the core values of Scouting without being too stiff, structured, or bent to conform. Tigers will explore our animal friends, healthy eating, the outdoors, playing games and getting along with others. Wolf and Bear Scouts will have fun helping others, performing for a group, telling jokes, using a pocketknife and being physically fit, and expanding on the topics covered by the Tiger program.

Webelos Scouts aren’t left out of the transformation, either. The first-year core includes cooking, hiking, fitness and emergency preparedness, while the second-year core features aquatics, camping, citizenship and preparing to transition to Boy Scouts. As now, there will be lots of electives to have fun with.

All ranks include a Duty to God adventure, which are intended to be completed at home, but may also be done in a den setting. Completing these adventures as a den could be particularly meaningful where all participants are of a single faith.

Naturally, all the program materials will be changing. Boys will have new handbooks to work from; den leaders will have program guides, and orientation training for council, district and unit-level Scouters will start to roll out this summer at the Philmont Training Center. Materials will be available by May 2015, and the new program starts in the fall of 2015 for all Cub Scout packs.

A few other changes will be taking place as part of this transition:

  • As previously announced, the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack will be retired and replaced with the Scout Oath and Scout Law (the handshake, salute and sign stay the same, and “Do Your Best” will not change)
  • The current Academics and Sports program (belt loops) will be retired as well. This will undoubtedly result in a sigh of relief from pack treasurers and advancement coordinators, but I’m sure those boys who like to collect these shiny tokens of achievement will be disappointed.
  • It will no longer be necessary to first earn the Webelos rank before going on to earn Arrow of Light. Some will say this shortcuts an essential part of the transition process, but I’ve seen many instances where a boy who wants to join is stuck agewise between Webelos and Boy Scouts. He’s too young to join a troop with his friends but too old to complete the full requirements for Arrow of Light. This step will eliminate that hurdle and allow more boys to transition to Scouting with their friends – particularly when their friends have discovered the fun of Webelos and the promise of adventure to come.

The overhaul is part of the 4-1-1 initiative we’ve discussed previously, and the national council is very forthcoming with updates and information on the changes.

The Cub Scout Adventure Program is, in my opinion, the most exciting change to the Cub program in the many years that I’ve been involved – probably in several decades, in fact. Except for a few tweaks, the current program hasn’t changed a whole lot since the dawn of Webelos. I’m excited about the new program and the prospects that it will hold the interest of our Cub Scout-age boys and their families, and help to stem the shrinkage in our membership.

2 Responses to The New Cub Scout Adventure Program

  1. Dustin Tarditi

    Our pack does participate in the Academics and Sports program and the Scouts LOVE working on belt loop and pin achievements – I hope they give careful consideration to the gap that will be generated for some of the high-engagement Scouts. The program offers a lot of exploration into areas that Scouts may not otherwise dive into – also gives Den leaders an incentive to offer fun activities with a tangible reward for participation. I think that when it is taken away, it will put a bit of a burden on the leadership to come up with trinkets and totems for participation to keep the boys interested – kids love to collect patches, beads, etc. and this was a recognized part of the uniform that is being taken away.
    I’m glad to see the tighter integration of Tiger Cubs as Tigers and treated less of a second-class Scout (throwback from the older days when it was a separate program). The Duty to God component is a welcome addition – we must not forget A Scout is Reverent.
    If they want to streamline the Cub Scouting program they should also consider the uniform; further cross-rank standardization and simplicity may go a long way. Changing so many uniform components between ranks doesn’t really help anything – distinguishing neckerchiefs and headgear may visually pick out scout ranks from a distance, but socks, belt buckles, and slides do little except add cost to the program for our parents.

    • Dustin,

      These are great observations. The Academics and Sports belt loop program is very popular with many Cub Scouts, but others just don’t seem to be as interested. Maybe it’s the parents or den leaders who don’t know about the program. And the recognition items can be costly for the pack, especially if a boy fills up his belt. There’s no reason a pack or den can’t continue to use the program and do the activities; there just won’t be any belt loops or pins available, so leaders may want to make up their own recognition devices, or a third party insignia provider like could introduce their own. If the demand is there, someone will fill it. My feeling is that the committee that developed the changes looked for ways to simplify the program and its elements, and found the A&S program to be counter to that aim.

      I also agree with streamlining the uniform. I’m in the process of working with our chartered organization and council in starting a new pack, and put together a list of required uniforms and insignia. It’s daunting, plus it currently requires new items each year. I feel it’s too much to ask a family just getting started to pay the $24 annual registration fee plus some amount for pack fees, plus another $50+ on uniforms, books, and insignia, plus more items each year. As long as we keep the rank neckerchiefs (a central element of Scouting worldwide), maybe we could simplify by having just one neckerchief slide and optional hat for all ranks, and forget about official BSA pants. By comparison, the Girl Scouts USA uniform is simple: just one required item, like a vest or sash – that’s it. I’m sure a change like that would meet with resistance from the national council, though, because Supply Division wouldn’t bring in as much revenue, but I think it would be welcomed by families.