Bobwhite Blather

Information, Observation, and Inspiration for Scouters

Can Cubs go ziplining, and other questions

concord-zip-lineOver the last couple weeks I’ve received questions on various issues from readers. Since they’re probably subjects that others may have questions about, I’ll discuss them here. (And as Joe Friday would say, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Can Cub Scouts go ziplining?

A local nature center is sponsoring a Cub Scout activity day. They’ll be running nature activities for Wolf and Bear advancement as well as some of the Webelos activity badges. Our pack is going to sign up. They’re also offering an opportunity, for an additional fee, for the boys to go on the zipline. Is it OK for them to go on the zipline, and what’s involved in getting the parents’ OK?

That sounds like a terrific event! It’s always great when museums, nature centers, parks and other community resources open their doors to Scouts and offer to share their expertise with our boys. I hope your boys have fun learning about the natural world around them.

However, they’ll need to do that from their own height. The Guide to Safe Scouting gives us a handy chart showing age-appropriate activities for various levels of Scouting, and “canopy tours” (as ziplining is known) are only authorized for Boy Scouts and older. For further confirmation, the section on age guidelines for work at elevations restricts youth up to age 14 to working at heights no more than four feet off the ground. I confirmed with our council’s program director that, indeed, ziplining is not approved for Cub Scouts. (Why the nature center is offering zipline rides at a Cub Scout activity is unclear. Perhaps they’re just unaware of the BSA’s rules on the subject.) Since the unit and its leaders, not the nature center, are responsible for keeping the boys safe, they’ll need to forego the ziplining part of the activity – at least as an official pack outing. (The boys and parents can always come back another day as individual families.)

The primary purpose of the rule is not to throw a wet blanket on our fun – it’s to make a best effort to keep our boys safe. However, there’s another purpose behind age-appropriate rules and that is to give the boys something to look forward to as they grow. Activities such as rifle and shotgun shooting, ropes courses and flowing-water canoeing would be great fun for boys of any age, but if Cub Scouts could do them, they’d lose out on the newness of the adventures they’ll have once they reach Boy Scouts. All of Scouting is age-based and progressive for reasons not only of safety but the thrill of discovering new things.

How about archery at a NRA-trained sportsman’s club?

We’re having a pack campout at a sportsman’s club that our local council has approved for Cub overnight camping – in fact, it’s the site of our annual district day camp. The club has NRA-certified range officers and we’d like to safely use the ranges while we’re there.

Again, we check the Guide to Safe Scouting and find that archery (and BB guns) are permitted for Cub Scout use only at council and district sponsored facilities, which includes council-owned camps and council-run day camp and resident camp. If the event was part of day camp and was staffed by BSA-trained range officers, that would be great fun. However, since it’s outside the boundaries in the age-appropriate activities guide, it’s not allowed – even if the range officers are NRA certified. It’s always best to follow the rules and keep the boys safe. Let them enjoy archery next summer at day camp and have fun on your pack overnighter! (You do have a parent who is BALOO-trained going along, right? It’s a requirement too.)

A youth leader who isn’t leading

I know that if a Scout has not fulfilled the requirements for a rank. he should not receive the rank. What if a boy has held a position of responsibility in title only but has not done anything in it or shown leadership? Can a board of review deny him his rank on that basis? What if he held the position prior to becoming First Class – can that service be counted toward Star or Life?

This issue comes up way too often. I’ve seen it happen in our own troop too. A Scout needs a position of responsibility for advancement past First Class, so he volunteers for a job such as Scribe or Troop Guide, but he doesn’t actually do anything and perhaps isn’t even asked to do anything or shown how to do his job.

The Guide to Advancement holds the answer to this situation. Section covers youth positions of responsibility, how expectations are set and how success is evaluated. To summarize:

  • It’s not acceptable for a boy to hold a position of responsibility and do nothing, producing no results. Something related to the desired results must happen.
  • It’s up to the unit leadership (both adult and youth) to see that the Scout is trained and that his skills are put to effective use, and that he shows not perfection but effort and improvement.
  • If, however, he isn’t given any training or feedback, he cannot be “surprised” at his Scoutmaster conference or board of review and denied his rank based on the shortcomings of the unit leadership’s failure to set expectations. We do not penalize Scouts for the failure of the adults. Rather, we use it as an evaluation tool to learn how to better apply Scouting’s principles in our unit.

A Scout does not “fail” a board of review. If actual shortcomings are found, the review is suspended, not terminated or denied. The Scout is told what needs to improve and a date set to reconvene the board of review.

The requirements state that service in a position of responsibility for a rank must be performed after completing the previous rank. Prior service time does not count for rank advancement (but it sure does show Scout spirit). Thus, if a boy was a patrol leader as a Second Class Scout, he couldn’t use that time toward his Star requirement – it’s four months since earning First Class.

The best way to ensure that youth leaders are getting the most out of their experience is through regular contact, guidance and reflection by the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmaster. The senior patrol leader and assistants can help train and mentor other youth leaders and can work with the Scoutmaster to learn how to do this.

If you have a question about the committee side of Scouting, drop me a line via the Contact page and I’ll do my best to get you the answers. 

Image: Paul Henman / Creative Commons license

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