Scout Leader Tips and Tricks As an outgoing Den Leader of Pack 208, I wanted to share some insights into Den Leadership, which have seemed to work well. Don’t feel obligated to employ these approaches; they are just ideas from one Den Leader to another. Leaders and Assistant Leaders In addition to the Den Leader, try to recruit one or two Assistant Den Leaders by simply asking 1 or 2 parents that you feel might be helpful in planning and conducting Den Meetings and activities. This really helps spread the work load, demonstrates to other parents that volunteerism is a good thing and is really not as much work as most might think, and it is very helpful to substitute in for each other when one of you cannot make a meeting for some reason. The training time commitment is minimal and the Den will be stronger for it. Award and achievement driven Try to tie Requirements and Electives into every meeting and activity so that the scouts are progressing regularly and easily toward the next rank and earning belt loops, pins and arrowheads all along the way. Scouts stay excited and engaged with Scouting when then are doing cool activities and earning patches and pins every chance they get. Uniform Inspection Do a brief and basic Uniform Inspection every time you get together. Make sure shirts are tucked in, kerchiefs and slides are on, patches are in the right place, etc. It is simply the respect to oneself and to Scouting that drives this fundamental element of how a Scout presents himself…. but also I can’t tell you the number of times people out in public told us how great how Scouts looked (and acted) on varied trips and activities. That’s a proud time for Den Leaders and parents. Plan the year in advance With your Assistance Den Leader(s), start planning the entire year’s Den calendar over the summer so that when the Scout year starts in September, you have a fairly good schedule of Den Meetings, Pack Meetings and other Den and Pack activities for the whole year. Make copies and distribute them to parents and ask them to put these dates in their home calendars. Have parents volunteer for den meetings Ask each scout parent to volunteer for 2-3 Den Meetings to “own” and conduct for the year. Conduct a couple of them yourself, of course, but be sure all of the meetings are covered. All of the requirements are in the Handbook and let them know the whole Den is available for coming up with ideas or approached for each Den Meeting. There are also numerous books and Internet sites that are good resources. This approach keeps parents engaged, prevents the “Drop & Run” mentality, and spreads the workload considerably. Create an agenda for each meeting Have a brief agenda for each meeting which will be the template used by each parent conducting meetings as well. Include any Prework for the meeting, list of things to bring, Opening Activity, The Pledge, Scout Oath / Law, etc, main meeting theme / activity / requirement. This helps to keep the meeting and all involved organized and on track. It also serves as a good reminder and record of past requirements worked on and who attended. Opening activity at every Den Meeting Have an Opening Activity planned for each Den Meeting. This activity should be something relatively easy, fun and either achievement or elective-driven. Usually a quick craft, puzzle or game works fine. Make this opening activity something the boys start working on as soon as they arrive at you meeting place. This ensures the scouts get focused right away and are not left to “goof off” or “horse play.” It is a lot easier to transition into the main part of your meeting from a “focused” mind set than some other mind set. Den Cheer Try to have some kind of Den Cheer or meeting closing that allows the boys to yell it out at the top of their lungs (location permitting.) Our guys had a lot of fun with this and it signaled the official end of our time together. We did this one 3 times in a row as loud as we could while each Scout put a hand in the center just breaking from a Huddle, “Let’s, let’s do our Best!” Regular updates of progress Ask for a parent volunteer or take this one on yourself. Track each Scout’s performance and provide a regular update to parents so that they can follow along with the year and provide any updates of activities that are completed at home or otherwise. This approach helps keep everyone on track and, keeps the boys excited with how much progress they are making, and even promotes some friendly competition within the Den. Consider using one of the Cub Scout tracking boards available at the Scout Shop or online. Have parents share special talents There is a parent Skills Inventory List available online which you can have parents fill out. You might be amazed at the talents and skills of the parents of your scouts. Ask the parents to share those skills in the Den Meetings they sign up for or just for an interesting activity or Go-n-See. For example, through the Skills Inventory List we learned that one of our parents was quite experienced with sewing. We asked if she would be willing to make the red felt patch vests for the boys. She brought in the vests when they were done, with each Scout’s name embroidered into the back of the vests, and we had a Den Meeting activity that involved sewing a button on the vest and placement of the first few patches the Scouts received. The Skills Inventory List proved to be very useful and helpful in this case. Another parent told us they were good with puppetry and skits so they conducted two entire Den Meetings on this topic where the boys made their own puppets, wrote an puppet show, used the puppets in the show and took part in learning about several types of puppets and how to use them in different types of puppet shows. Stations Here is an idea one of our parents had that was very clever. For one particular Den Meeting on knot tying, we wanted to accomplish as many of the requirements as possible in the Den Meeting. The parent set up “Stations” where one parent led a knot activity at each particular station. The Scouts had 10 minutes at each station and by the end of the night, everyone has finished all the requirements. The boys even made it into a game to make sure they could get finished before the 10 minutes was up at each station. Den Chief Make use of a Den Chief from a local Boy Scout Troop whenever possible. This Boy Scout leadership position gives the chance for a Boy Scout to earn valuable leadership skills required for Boy Scouts, provides you and your Den assistance in planning / conducting Den Meetings, enables your Cub Scouts to learn and hear directly from a Boy Scout which is usually considered “cool” and a level that most boys are aspiring too, plus this can give you and your parents a chance to talk or plan together during the meeting. Random Thoughts Have a few meetings run by a scout or Den Chief so parent can talk, get acquainted and share ideas and thoughts. It makes for a better scout year when parents are well informed, engaged and have a chance to get to know each other. Avoid “classroom” like den meetings…as one of our Assistance Den Leaders observed, “As soon as it smells like school, they’re done!” For those meetings where “learning” a bunch of non-active type of information, rather than reading or reciting to the Scouts, turn the requirements into a game, activity, puzzle, race….anything to make it fun and active. For example, when we had to buckle down and learn the Scout Oath, Scout Law, etc., instead of just sitting down and trying to memorize all of these, we asked the boys to practice in advance of Scout Relay Races where we set up teams and had the boys run as fast as they could to a parent of Leader in their “lane” and they had to recite the Law or Oath (we also had them demonstrate the Handshake, Sign, Salute, etc.) and when they got it right (or close enough) they ran back to tag the next Scout in line. The boys had a blast, got some exercise, and when you ask any one of them what they remember the most about trying to learn any of these, they say the Relay Races. Ask for volunteers or assign coordinators for tracking achievements, camping, Go-N-Sees, etc. Many hands make lighter work. Try to do an activity or make something at every meeting to keep the boys engaged. There are tons of ideas in the Cub Scouts Program Helps books available through Pack 208 and on several Internet sites. Use these resources to help you save a lot of time and energy coming up with games, activities, puzzles, etc.