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CUB SCOUT CORNER A Question of Balance Why advancement isn’t the end-all for each week’s meeting.

WHEN SHE WAS A DEN LEADER, Kim Barker of League City, Texas, took her boys on a hike that she soon realized was “a little too warm and a little too long.” It was also a hike that offered the boys a patch for finishing. At the end of the hike, Barker,

who now serves on the National Program Content Support Com- mittee, asked the exhausted boys what they thought of the experi- ence. She recalls, “One of the boys popped up and said, ‘The only thing I’ve got to say is I finally got a patch that my brother didn’t earn.’ The patch was important for him. That was his goal.” More important, of course, were

the life lessons he’d learned, but at that moment the patch was all that mattered. He needed tangible proof of what he’d done.

Cub Scouting is full of tangible

proof like that: rank patches, beads, arrow points, academics and sports belt loops, and more. Some boys (and parents) are all about the swag, but savvy leaders realize they need to keep advancement in context. “We want the kids to enjoy

themselves,” says Carl Baumeister, assistant Cubmaster of Pack 198 in West St. Paul, Minn. “Certainly we hope that they’re learning along the way, but there’s so much that goes into this. It’s not just about advancement.” Barker agrees. “The most impor- tant thing for a Scout who comes to a Cub Scout meeting is to learn— but to learn while having fun,” he says. “That’s one of the things that makes Cub Scouts different from school. It shouldn’t be like school.

They should want to come every week.”

So how can you balance fun and learning? Barker and Baumeister offer some suggestions:

LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE. Barker encourages new leaders to start with the Den & Pack Meeting Resource Guide (No. 32354)—but not to stop there. “Some meetings are a little more sed- entary than others,” she says. “I think it’s important that the information gets covered but that you do some- thing to make sure they’re having fun.” One way to do that is to include

a game in every den meeting. “I always like the last thing they do before they leave to be something they really enjoy, because that’s what they’ll remember,” Barker says.

EDUCATE YOUR PARENTS. “A big thing we try to do in our pack is commu- nicate to parents that this is supposed to be fun,” Baumeister says. He likes to use a pinewood derby analogy. “If a parent does all the work on a pinewood derby car, it might be a fast car, and your son might even win the race,” he says. “But is he really going to get the full range of growth that he would get if he had had a more hands- on experience? Maybe the car doesn’t look as good. Maybe it doesn’t run as fast. But he’s got that ownership.”

DON’T SKIP THE SIZZLE. Barker is a big fan of monthly themes. She served on the task force that created the themed

FIND MORE advice for Cub Scout leaders at cubscouts.

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