“We meet each week for Cub Scouts in this church classroom on Wednesday nights,” I once overheard a Wolf den leader announcing to a new eight-year-old boy and his parents.
“Aaaggghhh!” I wanted to groan out loud. It wasn’t the first time I had heard of Cub Scouts meeting in a classroom.
Cub Scouts isn’t church! It doesn’t have to be held in a church classroom and it doesn’t have to be held in the evening!
Yet sometimes, because our Church sponsors Scouting, we get the feeling that we have to meet every week at the church, stay in the same classroom, and sit and read out of our Scout books. That stifling setting can be a quick trip down the lane to boys not wanting to come to Scouts, or wear their uniforms, or bring their books!
No. ScOUTING at all levels is designed to be an “outing.” An adventure. An excursion. An activity. Church is for learning principles. Scouting is for practicing those principles through action.
The Scouting program, when executed properly, isn’t designed to happen with boys sitting on chairs in a circle, a teacher and a chalkboard at the front of the room. Or, necessarily held in the evening when boys are tired and there is no more sunlight to be enjoyed.
The founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell said, “In ‘Scout’ there is ‘out’. The open-air is the real objective of Scouting and the key to its success.”
We often envision older boy Scouting programs with youth going on campouts and hikes and canoe trips. But Cub Scouting is also an activity program, designed for little boys who already spend too much time cooped up in a schoolroom or glued to a digital screen.
Research abounds on the benefits of being outdoors. Children do better socially, mentally, emotionally, and physically when they spend time stretching their legs and their lungs. Scouting is the perfect opportunity for them to experience fresh air adventure.
Kenny Ballantine, from the Nature Kids Institute (naturekidsinstitute.com), suggested that children (and that includes Cub Scouts) should have free play outside once a day, engage in nature exploring once a week, visit a park once a month, and have a wilderness adventure once a year. Cub Scouting can potentially fill most of those needs.
You can’t cook in a classroom, nor can you necessarily carve a pinewood derby car, or practice most physical fitness skills, or develop swimming strokes, or identify bird homes, or visit a fire station, or practice bike-riding safety. These are events that could be conducted with a flair and excitement if they happened outdoors, away from a stifling classroom, and—when possible—during the sunlight hours.
If your den is meeting each week in a classroom, take the opportunity to get out as soon as you gather for the Pledge, a prayer, and the Scout Oath. Get OUT! Ride bikes in the parking lot or down the lane, roast marshmallows over a fire in a back yard, have a scavenger hunt, do service in a Church member’s garden, bake cookies in a kitchen, build a birdhouse in a wood shop, fish at the local pond, do pull-ups at the park, or plant flowers in the dirt!
One of the best Cub Scout dens I’ve ever observed gathered each week in a garage. Think of it! The rambunctious boys were constantly surrounded by tools and projects and all sorts of interesting things! Once any sitting time or book work was finished, they were out on the neighborhood lawn, running, singing, jumping, crafting, climbing trees, learning about animals, or whatever else the weekly activity required.
Now, that being said, it’s understandable that different locations and circumstances offer various restrictions on how and when Cub leaders can meet with boys. But consider breaking the mold of “meeting at the church” and try a garage, a house, a yard, or any place where boys can stretch their legs and grow on wings of adventure. You may be surprised at the excitement and energy young boys build when they know that each week going to Cub Scouts means Adventure! Fun! Activity! Outdoors! Active learning! And…spiritual growth.
President Gordon B. Hinckley observed, “All the beauty in the earth bears the fingerprint of the Master Creator.” Consider that when boys are outdoors they are not only improving their physical lives and passing off requirements, but they are learning about and becoming closer to their Heavenly Father.
“We hold our den meeting each week in the church classroom,” could become, “We begin our den meetings in this classroom, but then we head outside for adventure!”
~Nettie Francis is a former den leader, Cubmaster, and current Cub Scout Mom.