If you’re a den leader, you realize that successful den meetings are planned in advance and have a variety of activities for the boys. The new Adventure program puts everything together so you don’t have to try to figure out for yourself how to run your den meetings. The goal is engagement, with advancement as the most visible byproduct.
The November/December 2015 issue of Scouting Magazine has a great article describing steps to planning better den meetings. In the article, Webelos leader David Kampa describes five big ideas for not only making meetings more fun for the boys but easier for you to plan.
If you’re a new den leader, your subscription to Scouting might not have started yet, so I recommend you go online and read the article. Your subscription will start shortly after your adult volunteer application is turned in by your pack leadership, so make sure that they turn it in promptly and don’t wait until it’s time to recharter.
Here are some thoughts to extend the advice in the article:
Go buy the book. With the new Adventure program, the Boy Scouts of America has published a series of den leader guides for each rank. David says these guides provide easy to follow, step-by-step instructions on planning your den meetings. Some of the information may be available online, but you should go to the Scout Shop and purchase your own copy. That way, you’ll have all the information you need to plan den meetings at your fingertips. You can browse through them, skip ahead as you wish, and save money on printing and paper costs as well.
Know your parents too. David suggests you ask your den parents about their sons’ individual traits, so you can get a better handle on their strengths and weaknesses and how to approach each boy. To keep from having to hold separate meetings, have your assistant den leader run an activity while you talk to the parents – in a group or individually – about their sons. You can also observe their interest level and possibly identify future helpers or even den leaders.
Help is online. The BSA provides great resources for den leaders online through the BSA’s website scouting.org. Much of this, as the article points out, hasn’t been rewritten yet to align with the Adventure program. But never fear: fellow Scouters have come to the rescue with online resources you can follow, both timely and timeless. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- Scouter Mom contains lots of great articles and resources for following the Adventure program. There are activities, charts and checklists to help you find your way through the program.
- Baloo’s Bugle has been publishing a monthly web magazine for Cub Scout leaders since 1996. It’s an extensive compilation of resources from Scouters around the country, Pow-Wow and Scouters’ Conference publications, and other sources organized to follow each monthly theme. Think of it as a Roundtable magazine. Baloo’s Bugle was a lifesaver when I planned our monthly pack meetings, and you’ll find it among your most valuable go-to resources. All the back issues are there and you can use those resources if they fit your den program – the boys will never know!
- Cub Scout Ideas also has great information to guide you through the Adventure program. There are also ideas for ceremonies, games, outdoor fun, gathering activities and many more.
Roundtable: the more, the merrier. David states what many active Scouters know: your monthly district Roundtable meeting is a wealth of information on how to plan and present the Cub Scout program, complete with experienced people to ask. But it’s much more fun with friends. Get your fellow den leaders to go with you to this month’s Roundtable. You’ll all have something to talk about on the way to and from, and you’ll all get more out of Scouting and feel better about the great program you’re putting together for the boys.
Planning ahead puts you at ease. Having a plan is important, but starting early enough to make sure you can do the things you want to do can make the difference between a so-so meeting and one that pops with excitement. Look ahead not just at this week’s meeting but have a general idea of what you’re going to be doing this month, next month and throughout the year. Because of the way they’re structured, many of the activities require at least some advance planning. We presented a series of articles earlier this year listing some of those considerations. Knowing what you’re doing tonight is good, but knowing that you’ve got next month’s den meetings covered gives you real peace of mind.
Image: Stephen B. Thornton / NBC News