Free time and meeting activity ideas: Two things a Cub Scouter never has enough of.
While the November 2014 CubCast, the monthly podcast for Cub Scout leaders, can’t find free time for you, it can help you with suggestions for activities. The podcast includes the seven ideas I list below and tons more.
This month’s guest is Linda Vaughn, member of the National Camping Task Force with a focus on Cub Scout National Camping School. For the past two years she’s been part of the Cub Adventure Team tasked with rewriting the Cub Scout Handbooks and Den Leader Guides.
In other words: She has a lot to share. Take a look (and listen):
Seven den and pack meeting ideas
Colorful exploration: Go to the paint store and get a sampler of paint colors. Send the boys out to discover in nature some of the colors found outdoors.
“Minute to Win It” games: Quick, easy, fast, fun, affordable. Many of the items you need are already in your home. Find 20 examples here.
Rube Goldbergs: Build and set off a chain of events with dominoes, PVC pipes and anything else around. Split into teams, and the group whose contraption lasts the longest from start to finish wins.
Marble tracks: Buy copper tubing insulators, which are foam and about two or three inches in diameter and are already split in half. This gives you a nice marble roller track, with which boys can design loops and hills and jumps. You’ll have them discovering science ideas like momentum and kinetic energy.
Use technology the right way: iPhones and iPads aren’t just for Angry Birds. You can use movie apps like Splice, which is free and lets boys make mini-videos and record what they’re doing. They can go out in nature and record things rather than picking plants and making a physical scrapbook. That’s more in line with Leave No Trace, anyway.
Build some “weapons”: The book Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction shows boys how to make catapults and archery equipment. What boy wouldn’t like that? If you can’t get to a BB gun range or an archery range, offered by your districts and councils, you can have the boys build and design these things.
Let them paint and create: Painting, sculpting and creating are big fun that can make a big mess. That’s the idea, Linda says. “Not being afraid to let them get dirty or messy or make a mess is really, I think, a critical part of the whole program.”
Find more ideas by listening to the CubCast or reading the transcript below.
November 2014 CubCast Transcript
NOVEMBER – FUN ACTIVITIES FOR YOUR DENS AND PACKS
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JANET: Hello, everyone, thanks for tuning in to the November, 2014 CubCast.
MARK: Up until about a year ago, CubCast focused on ideas for activities for your dens and packs based on the core values, but things changed and dens and packs can pick whatever theme they want from the theme options.
JANET: So CubCast shifted its focus, and we began to discuss other topics that we thought our listeners would like more information about.
MARK: Which is a good thing and hopefully you’re getting a lot out of those discussions, but the new Cub Scout initiative is all about adding to the fun and adventure of Cub Scouting. I think we need to have at least one episode this year that helps folks with new ideas for Cub Scout activities.
JANET: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s get started.
JANET: Our guest for this month is eight-year cubmaster, Linda Vaughn. She currently serves as a member of the National Camping Task Force with focus on Cub Scout National Camping School, and for the past two years has been part of the Cub Adventure Team tasked with rewriting the Cub Scout Handbooks and Den Leader Guides. Linda was with us in May of 2010 to talk about the monthly theme, Hoop-De-Do. Welcome back to CubCast, Linda.
LINDA: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
JANET: What do we mean by activities?
LINDA: When the Cub Scout is coming to a den meeting, he’s looking forward to doing something and so the activities are what they do when they get to the den meetings or the pack meetings or any of the outings that they go on.
MARK: Why are they such an important of the den or pack meeting?
LINDA: It’s what brings them there. It’s what captures their attention. It’s what generates the excitement for the program. So if you’re not doing anything, they’re going to find something else or someplace else to go.
JANET: Who is responsible for planning activities?
LINDA: I’ve thought about that over the years, and as I have changed positions from den leader to committee member to cubmaster, my view has changed and I thought I am responsible to make things happen, so my answer is, if anybody who wants the pack to be successful, then you are responsible for it. So that includes the den leaders, your cubmasters, your den chiefs, your committee members, your parents, and even the Cub Scouts; everyone can take a part in being responsible. The important part, if we’re talking to den leaders, is you’re not alone. You’re not alone to do it all, that you’ve got a whole bunch of people around you that are interested in this being a successful program, and so you can pull in people to help be responsible for those things. If I’m going to have a successful program, I’ll take responsibility, but I won’t do it alone.
MARK: There’s a lot of activities in Cub Scouting that don’t cost any money, but every once in a while you got one that takes a little bit of funding. How do you fund those activities in your pack?
LINDA: Every unit is different. Some of the packs require the boys to pay weekly dues. A lot of them will ask up front for money donations that will cover the expenses. Some of our sponsoring organizations fund it so the individuals don’t have to pay out of pocket, but all of that requires you to be careful with the money that you spend. The key is planning because if you are planning ahead and communicating what you’re doing with your parents, you’re going to be able to find a lot of information and a lot of resources coming into your pack so that you’re not always running to the store for items that somebody already has.
Here’s an example. I needed a hundred milk lids for a particular catapult that I have found and I needed it right away, and so I put that information out, and said, “Hey, does anybody have any?” because the alternative was to go to a local store and purchase them for $6.00, and I came out with 400 milk lids available to me because they were already out there. And so if den leaders will plan what they’re doing, they’ll find that they’ve got a lot of money and resources available to them.
Ultimately it is the Cub Scout and his family. They’re going to have to pay some money into the program, and so if you’re providing activities that are exciting and dynamic and that they want to part of, you’ll find that they’re willing to participate and help fund those items.
MARK: When we were den leaders, we always had neighbors and friends and other people in the den to get us stuff, and every time we move I find boxes of Popsicle sticks and baby food jars and beads, and they always come in handy.
LINDA: They always do. It’s fun.
JANET: Now for the fun part. What are some new ideas for activities, especially for the upcoming winter months?
LINDA: I’m going to go back, just to remind people that the some of the basic ones are still good – the academic and sports belt loop program. If you haven’t done one of those activities or one of those belt loops, take a look at them because they provide a wide range of fun activities to do. This past summer I took my grandsons ages 6 and 9 to Philmont, and they have a new Gaga ball pit, and my grandsons could not get enough of that. They had no idea what it was from the very beginning, but they had so much fun playing a new form of dodge ball with all of their new friends.
JANET: You know, it’s funny you should mention Gaga Ball, Linda, because when our sons were in Boy Scout troops years ago, they used to play Gaga Ball and they loved it. They all looked forward to it and hoped that they could end a meeting with a rousing game of Gaga Ball. So, it seems like what’s old can be new again for the boys who are exposed to it for the first time now.
LINDA: One of my favorite standbys has always been your minute-to-win-it games because they’re quick, easy, fast, fun, and they’re very affordable because so many of the items that have you have around your home, you’re going to be able to use in them. This past summer at Philmont, I found another game where you had staves, 20 of them, and they were simply PVC pipes cut to five foot lengths, and then you stood in a circle and everybody had a pole, and the caller would say left or right quickly, and then everybody would move either left or right, and if you didn’t grab the pole that was next to you in the right direction, and if your pole fell then you stepped out, and it was fabulous.
JANET: Wow! That sounds like fun.
LINDA: As long as you can get outside, I think it’s a great time to take them hiking. You have in your How-To book different types of hikes that you can take. My favorite one is going to the paint store and getting a sampler of paint colors and then sending the boys out to discover in nature some of the colors that we reproduce and paint.
JANET: That’s great.
LINDA: One of my favorite new activities is to take Rube Goldberg-type machines where they build things happening. You make something happen, and you make a chain of events to happen with dominoes and PVC pipes.
A new fun discovery I’ve had is copper tubing insulators, are foam that are about two or three inches in diameter, and they’re already split in half. But if you slice them lengthwise, you get the most perfect marble roller track, and you can have them design things like loops and hills and jumps, and you can have them discovering some science ideas like, momentum and kinetic energy and you can introduce them into science and have them excited and having fun with some of these inventions.
MARK: That’s a great idea, Linda.
LINDA: The other tool, I think, that we can use to make activities exciting and can draw in the interest of other little boys is the idea of using some technology. We don’t need to look at the phone or the iPad as only to play Angry Birds, but we can use the apps on there to have them record what they’re doing. Use some of the movie apps like Splice. Splice is one of the free ones they can use to make mini-videos and to record what they’re doing. Going out in nature and recording things rather than picking and making a scrapbook is kind of a new way to grab the interest of the boys. They’re using their technology, they’re focusing on some science, they’re doing things with each other. The youth today, as they do the science, are not afraid to say, “How did you do that?” because they want to learn how, and they’re not afraid that they don’t know.
MARK: I would have loved you to be our cubmaster.
LINDA: I almost hate to mention this particular book, but I found a new favorite book that uses office equipment like pencils and pens and rubber bands. It’s called Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction and it creates fabulous catapults and, archery equipment, and I just think there’s great value in things that fly. So if you can’t get to a BB gun range or an archery range, offered by your Cub Scout districts and councils, you can have the boys build and design these things and have fun with them. If science isn’t your thing, then find a parent that has that knowledge or that edge to bring it to them. I’ve often thought I limited myself far too much by trying to do the program myself when I was a Webelos leader. I should have been bringing in more of the experts around me.
JANET: I wish I’d thought of that one when I was a leader.
LINDA: Another thing I just think is so fun is, you’ve got your Cub Scouts who love to paint. I think there’s a value in having, play dough. You don’t want to do the same thing every time, but (give) them a large variety so they have a taste of some of these fun things to do. Not being afraid to let them get dirty or messy or make a mess is really I think a critical part of the whole program.
MARK: Sounds like your Cub Scouts have a really fun time.
LINDA: There’s such fun in cooking these days and as we change direction and are trying to help the boys eat healthy, we might as well help them learn how to cook healthy. We ought to do some creative things with apples and corn and have them out barbecuing, or working with coal, or whatever’s appropriate for the age group that you’re with. I remember a mom one time saying as we were at a Cub Camp and we were roasting apples over the coals and then peeling off the apple skin and rolling them in cinnamon sugar. The mom said, “My son will never eat that.” So we sat and watched him eat the whole thing. She was just amazed, but it was because he made it. I also think the boys should get a chance to decorate or mix cookies or learn how to use things in moderation. So having them in the kitchen and having opportunities to learn and mix and create on their own is a great way to have fun with them. So that’s just a few ideas to make sure that we were having some fun and that they wanted to come back the next week.
MARK: One of the things you mentioned is about getting parents involved. That’s one of the best things about Cub Scouting; one of the most important things is getting parents involved. So, how do you get parents involved in these kinds of activities?
LINDA: We often send out lists to say this is what we need; that’s a great start. You might need to identify what it is we need in small increments. I need refreshments on this day; I need someone who can transport the boys to the park on this day. When you identify specific needs, instead of just saying “I need help,” people are much more likely to step up and do it.
The second step is to actually make the contact, and in today’s society, I know a lot of us say, “WelI, I don’t want a phone call, I want a text.” Then use the method that your audience will respond to and text it to somebody and say, “This is what I need. Do you have time to provide this activity for me?”
The other thing that surprised me, when I first started years ago and this was in a Cub Camp setting, I thought, “Why would anybody volunteer an entire week to come and spend it at a camp?” But what I found was when I had a strong, organized program that they had confidence in, they knew that something was going to happen, they knew that the boys were going to be busy. They knew they wouldn’t be spending valuable time disciplining unhappy boys because the program was exciting, and they were excited about what they were doing. I found that people wanted to be a part of it. They wanted to be involved and active because everybody wants to be part of a successful program.
It’s important to get the sibling – don’t forget that it’s a family program, and sometimes the sisters are the best resource you have because they love doing some of those things that maybe the brothers don’t. So, keep that in mind that it’s a working family program to help the program move forward.
JANET: Linda, you mentioned a book that you found that you think’s going to be a valuable resource for activities; can you suggest some other resources that are available for Cub Scout leaders to get more ideas for activities?
LINDA: Go to the Internet. One of my favorite Internet sites is www.sciencetoymaker.org and I’ve used it for several years. It’s the stomp rocket that he shows how to build and how to make. Another really great site is RAST. I can’t remember what those letters stand for, but it’s a teacher education resource. It has things like a tongue depressor harmonica, your glug tuba horn that’s a fun way to incorporate music into a program. I love some of my old standby Cub Scout resources. The How-To Book; I’ve often thought as soon as I have gone through every one of those how-to games, then I can go on the Internet and look for a new one. Even the handbooks have some great ideas that we have never used before. Don’t overlook the value of the Cub Scout Sparkler Book, the Song Book, even the Cub Scout Magic Book has a few items that are still fun and relevant for the boys to work with.
Use your teachers in the local schools around you. They have great ideas and often the equipment that you might need. Your sponsoring organizations are good resources as well.
JANET: There’s an old fashioned resource available, and that’s the Public Library. I remember when I was a leader, I found many books of activities on their shelves.
LINDA: And they’re on the shelves because nobody’s checking them out anymore. That would be a great place to go. Another kind of fun resource is to ask them boys themselves. Find out if there’s something they’re interested in.
MARK: Linda, is there anything else about fun Cub Scout activities that you think ought to be shared with our listeners?
LINDA: A key element has to be that as a leader, it’s okay if the boys don’t want to do what you’ve set up to do. You still have them do it. The best comment I ever had was, I said, “We’re going to have fun today,” and he said, “Great.” And then he looked at me and he said, “Wait a minute, your kind of fun or my kind of fun?” I laugh about that all the time because I thought, well, it’s going to be my kind of fun, and I’m going to make it be your kind of fun. Whoever’s presenting the activity, if they do it with enthusiasm and have a good time, and if you don’t want to do it again, that’s okay, but we’re going to do it together this time.
And be okay if something doesn’t work out the best way the first time or the next time. That’s what I think about the program is – try new things, and have fun with them.
JANET: As you explained, Linda, activities are such an important part of the Cub Scout program. Thanks so much for being on CubCast and reminding us how much fun activities should be and can be.
LINDA: Thank you.
MARK: Now let’s head next door to hear what ScoutCast is doing. Then we’ll be back with Reminders and Tips.
(Scoutcast – New Merit Badges)
MARK: CubCast listeners might enjoy that one as well. But now let’s jump into Reminders and Tips for November.
JANET: First, let’s talk membership inventory. By now all your new youth and adult applications from your recruiting drive should be submitted to the council office. It’s a good idea to compare the www.myscouting.tools record to your own to make sure there are no discrepancies and that all those new folks are properly registered.
MARK: Ask yourself this, do all your dens have den chiefs? Talk to your commissioner or Scoutmaster about recruiting a Boy Scout to serve as a den chief. Being a den chief counts as a leadership position for the scout’s advancement so you’re doing a good turn by having a den chief. He’ll also make a great program assistant.
JANET: As a bonus, you’ll find you have a lot more time for yourself and this position you volunteered for will be so much easier. Download the October 2013 CubCast to learn all about the joy of having a den chief.
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JANET: And that, sadly, brings us to the end of the November CubCast. Thanks to our guest, Linda Vaughn, for joining us.
MARK: Be sure to come back next month as we dive into new tax laws that affect the way you’ll be handling fundraising dollars. Not a particularly fun topic, but one we really need to talk about and you need to hear.
JANET: So, did you enjoy this CubCast? Even if you didn’t, let us know. Just send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet to @cubcast. Until next time, I’m Janet Griffin.
MARK: And I’m Mark Griffin. Now go out there and have some fun!
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