Lion pilot program for kindergarteners off to a roaring start, with exciting changes coming for 2017-2018

“It’s fun, hands-on and active.” “It’s simple and easy to implement.” “It’s age-appropriate, builds character and develops new skills.”

That’s just a glimpse of what parents and youth across the country are saying about Lions, the BSA’s pilot program for kindergarten-age boys.

Lions answers the call for fun, character-building after-school adventures for boys 5 or 6 years old or in kindergarten. Lions begins its second season as a nationwide pilot program in the 2017-2018 Scouting year.

Pilot is the operative word here. It means this program is evolving based on feedback from parents and BSA professionals. Based on that feedback, as well as surveys and focus groups, the BSA has some changes to announce for this fall.

I’ll share those changes a little later in the post. First, let’s take a quick look at what people are saying about Lions so far.

What did families think of Lions in 2016-2017?

Lion Guides, parents, and youth agreed that the program content was enjoyable, effective and engaging.

“Overall, the Lion program was a big hit with our pack,” one survey respondent wrote. “In my opinion, this is the best idea the BSA has come up with, next to allowing girls to join Venturing.”

Many said they got the training and support from council and district volunteers to help make their Lion experience a success.

Other highlights from the survey:

  • 61 percent of Lion parents indicated they have no other child in Scouting. This means Lions is both recruiting new families to Scouting as well as serving siblings of existing Scouts.
  • 90 percent of parents said they liked the uniform T-shirt, shared-leadership model, age-appropriate activities, youth Adventure book and immediate recognition stickers. They’re also pleased with the meeting duration, frequency and content. They said the Leader Guidebook was simple and easy to follow and that the Adventures were engaging for the boys.
  • 91 percent of parents say their Lion will be moving to Tigers. This is probably the best indicator of all that the pilot program is success.

What’s new in Lions for 2017-2018?

  • Pack meetings and activities will be open to Lion families who want to participate. Lion families said they wanted more pack involvement, and now they have the option of being included in program, skits, and more.
  • Pinewood Derby open to Lions. Packs have three recommended options for implementing this:
    1. Integrate into the pack Derby with other Cub Scouts.
    2. Use the wedge car from the Scout Shop to eliminate cutting.
    3. Have Lions participate in a Veggie Car Derby, where potatoes and cucumbers replace wood blocks.
  • Fundraising will be allowed as a family option. Although they don’t want mandatory levels of funds to raise, Lion families indicated they do want to have the option to raise funds. Spring fundraising is encouraged. If popcorn is sold by Lions, a show-and-sell approach where older boys and parents are also present is preferred. Door-to-door selling would only be appropriate if the parent is by the youth’s side.
  • Uniform T-shirt won’t change, but families can buy button-down if they want. Parents and boys love the required Lion T-shirt and optional cap. But this change allows families to buy official blue Cub Scout button-down shirts and blue pants as desired for special occasions and pack ceremonies.
  • A Lion-specific page in Boys’ Life. Parents can use this great resource to help unlock the world of reading for their child.

Find tons of great Lion content on this site.

60 Comments

  1. Well, your real judge of success will be if they’re still at 91% when they get to webelos crossing to Boy Scouts, but…

    • Why would the Webelos to Scout rate be a reflection on the Lion program in specific? Doesn’t the Webelos to Scout ratio reflect more on the overall Cub program, the Webelos program in specific, and the reception Webelos get at the Troop level?

      Let’s not put too much on a program designed for kindergartners.

      • Yes and no. If we’ve burned out our moms and dads … especially the AoL den leader who’s been at it while kids staggered through grades K-5, it could lead to families too tired or youth too bored for boy scouts.

        • Q, 100% agree. It’s hard enough to plan compelling programming that excites 6/7 year olds and 10/11 year olds. Adding 5 year olds to the mix is a near impossible ask. Fifth graders want nothing to do with 5-7 year olds and drop out, especially when they move to middle school in fifth grade.

        • Nutmegger,

          Respectfully, if you have Scouts who want nothing at all to do with the younger scouts you might want to look at how you are presenting Scouting in the first place. Sure they don’t want to be with them all the time, but that is why the primary interactions are at the Den level with their Peers with whole pack interactions at Pack Shows and other events (which still break down by Den) The older Scouts get to show off a bit to the younger ones, and help teach them if done well.

      • The Webelos to scout rate is a definite reflection of Lions & tigers. In our pack, we found that after 5 years, many families considered the arrow of light “graduation” and completion of scouting. The boys were transitioning from elementary school to middle school. Parents worried about additional extra curriculars and viewed scouting as a little kid activity that boys outgrow.
        Tigers (now lions) are viewed as junior cub scouts rather than cubs being viewed as jr Boy Scouts.

        • One thing I did was introduce the Webelos to Boy Scout activities ASAP. I begged a troop to invite us camping with them at a district camporee so they could watch. Not only did they see the Scouts in action, some of the judges allowed them to try a few events that they would be able to do.

          I also go the den using the Patrol Method and doing things for themselves instead of their parents doing it for them. That was the hardest part: getting the parents to step back and let their sons do the things they are suppose to do without their help. By the time they crossed over, they were well prepared for Boy Scouts.

          I just wish more Webelos Den Leaders treated Webelos as “Jr. Boy Scouts.” Sadly I’ve seen parents still treating their Boy Scouts as Cub Scouts.

        • We run our program as Cub Scouts with a Boy Scout light flavor. We emphasize how all the fun skills learned now help prepare for the next level and beyond.

    • It’s going to be tough. There’s already enough scout and leader burnout in the current Tiger to AOL path. It’s awfully hard to keep everyone excited for that long to get them into a troop.

      The new requirements for webelos help some. Solid cooperation with a troop to help the webelos complete their adventures is really critical to getting the boys over the hump in my view.

    • I have to agree with Tom on this one. Been an active Boy Scout troop leader for 26 years, and have seen that the crossover rate from Webelos to Boy Scouts has been very low in our area. Little boys are tired of arts and crafts, and tend to drop out of Cubs or Webelos a year or two before crossing over. They want to go camping, but rules on Webelos and Cubs are more restrictive so they are stuck with arts and crafts and daytime activities. Adding one more program for little ones doesn’t help. We have great competition from sports, band, and other school activities, and Scouting always seems to come in last. It was like pulling teeth to even get an adult to lead our Lion program last year.

      • One of the reasons they revamped the enitre Cub Scout program in June 2015 was just what you are saying. Sadly adults didn’t want to give it a try and complained. hence the second change in December 2016.

        It takes abuot 3 years for to implement a new program. National didn’t even give it 18 months before changing it.

        My middle son’s den used the June ’15-December ’16 program for Webelos and AOL badges. There is a major degree of difference between them and the den that started off that way, but ended up using the December 16 requirements to earn AOL, and for one individual Webelos.

      • I have a BS, and two cubs, one who just completed the Lions year. I just see Cubs and Boys as two completely different programs. I feel like there should be a middle step for 3-5 graders. The transition to Boys is huge. They are really in their own to earn merit badges and camping. A lot of the boys seem ill prepared. The ones who liked Cubs don’t like Boys, and the ones who thrive in Boys are the ones who didn’t like Cubs.

        • Webelos is suppose to be the transition program from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. sadly many Cub Scout Leaders do not see it, or do it right. That’s why I did what I did above.

          And you are so right: those who love Cub Scouts tend to hate Boy Scouts and vice-versa. I’m so glad I did the three year program back in the day. I hated Wolf and Bear years, while I enjoyed Webelos. But Boy scouts is where it is at.

  2. What about the camping? Everything else seems to have opened up for them except this. Our packs have had an issue with the difference between family camping and the no-Lion camping rule and it seems to exclude Lions without brothers already in the pack.

      • The Lion FAQ page does not directly address family camping, but does say no day camp or den camping. Would want further clarification.

        • We got permission from council to allow them to camp with Pack. If the Lion is a younger sibling, they would be camping with us as a family member anyways. We wanted them all to have that option.

        • Only Webelos Dens are allowed to camp by themselves Tigers through Bears can only camp at pack and district/council level camp outs.

          As for Lions and camping, I’ve been told that some of the packs are ignoring this rule as those with siblings in the pack would be camping anyway, and it’s not fair to those without siblings.

        • “but does say no day camp or den camping”
          Lions do not go to Cub Scout Day Camps. They also do not go camping just as a Lion Den. However, if a Pack is going camping, and invites a Lion Den to go along with everyone else and their families, then there’s nothing prohibiting this.

      • Lions can definitely camp, they just cant do shooting sports, so if a council camp has archery or BB guns, they won’t be open to Lion Cubs.

    • My District is seeing the same issue. One pack lost a Lion due to not being able to camp with the rest of the Pack. This Lion’s family are regular campers so to try to explain to him that he could not participate in a District Camping event because he didn’t have a Scout sibling.

    • FAQ says it’s ok:
      “Because of their age, development level, physical abilities, and stamina, Lions should participate in pack activities as their families feel comfortable with the age appropriateness of the activities.

      For example, Lion dens should not participate in overnight Den specific camping but Pack and Family camping are ok. Day camp and activities such as shooting sports are reserved for the older Cub Scouts. Instead, keep the Lion dens focused on their exciting (and age-appropriate) adventures and fun family outings. Family camping with the Pack is totally welcome and encouraged!”
      http://www.scouting.org/filestore/cubscouts/lion/LION-FAQs-8-8-17.docx

        • The guidance I’ve gotten since day 1 has been that if they aren’t 5 at the beginning of the program year, they can’t participate. The effect is that some boys will simply never be Lions because they are eligible for Tigers even if they’re 5 the following fall by virtue of having completed kindergarten.

          Looks like they’ve modified that a little though, thankfully. From the FAQ (but not under the changes section for some reason)

          “Q: The Lion Parent and Leader Guidebook says the age requirement is age 5 by September 1. Local schools / state law vary and our state says age 5 by September 30. How do we handle this difference?
          A: Yes, different states have different age requirements for kindergarten. We took the average age around the nation.
          Clarification and updated answer. To be eligible for the Lion program, a boy must be age 5 or the year before First Grade and not yet 7 years old. ”

          That’s an awfully awkward phrasing, but I’ll take it!

          Thanks for prompting me to read the FAQ more closely.

        • Cubmaster Mark, look immediately above your comment.

          Age 5 and Kindergarten is no longer the rule. It’s 5 OR “year before first grade” and not yet 7 now, which allows the inclusion of young kindergartners previously excluded.

        • You cannot register online until the lion scout turns five. I tried a few times but it didn’t work until after his fifth birthday, always came up with an invalid date.

    • As both the Cubmaster and Lion guide I have never separated my Lion Cubs. In my eyes they are Scouts period, they actively participate in all Pack Events including Camping trips.

      • This is the way to do it, *provided* that there are adequate age appropriate activities planned (which is easy to do with a small amount of attention).

    • I know of some units that put the Lions parents on the committee and then “insist” the committee go on camp outs to help with leadership to get around any camping restrictions. If the parent is going camping them the 🦁 is too.

      • LOL! Great idea, as long as it is not too pushy making people want to not be involved. Since Tiger parents need to register (assuming Lion parents as well since we just got it opened up for us) getting a BSA # has been a great tool to help nudge them to stay involved with pack leadership and participation.

    • ThThis is just a money grab. The button down shirt is more expensive than the tahirt (plus throw I. Patches). No kindergarten kid will be the same size when he’s a bear. It’s bad enough families get charged $10 a year for hats & neckerchiefs. Asking to pay for 2 or three shirts is wrong.

      • It was only added as an option for those who want to based on requests. Also buying the shirt large to grow into makes a lot of sense and is very common. Most of ours buy the L unless their boys are smaller than average and can get it through from Tigers to Webelos and the tan shirt switch.

  3. Our council (Northern Star) has had the lion program from the beginning and they are allowed to participate in everything older scouts do. The only thing I dislike is the program books and stickers. They go to the pack meetings and see the older boys get get patches and loops and all they have are stickers.

    • Thumbs up for your post. I agree in principle, however, it’s still a pilot program – we should give National a chance to integrate changes.

      For all we know this could be in the works.

      To the person who gave this post a thumbs down, perhaps you’d like to reply and state while you disagree.

    • We always had an unofficial patch to give to the Lions at pack meetings. We’d give out the Pinewood Derby patch or a Memorial Day Parade patch in those months, something similar in other months.

    • There are plenty of ways to give them patches and awards, even if they are not formal or rank based. Lots of events have patches available, and there are catalogs of fun patches out there. Check with your local Girl Scouts as they often have resources for sources of extra patches.

  4. Still doesn’t accommodate kindergarten boys in states with late age cutoffs. In Connecticut up to a third of kindergarteners are four when they start. Those boys are barred from Lions. Not the message we want to send. One of a few reasons we’ve declined to participate in the pilot.

  5. Our council has offered a Lions program for years, but in our pack it has not been a roaring success – we started with 16 last fall and by the spring only 4 remained. In our area parents work odd hours, have lots of kids, or are single parents – all of which make a parent-run activity difficult to maintain. On top of that, for year’s i’ve watched scouts and families burn out on the Cub program with the original 5 year plan – it’s difficult to keep it fresh for that long, and this makes it even longer.

    • I wish we would have stuck with the original 3 year program and just added Tigers like back in my day. Not as much burn out by leaders.

  6. A concern that the Lion leader from last year passed on to me (as CM) is that the Tiger program almost feels like a repeat of the Lion program, looking at the guidebook. I’m not sure what the solution is there, but I worry that they boys will be bored this year as Tigers if it feels too much like last year. In general, though, it was fantastic having a Lion den on board last year! We do a lot of things at the pack level and included them in basically everything. They were so excited to be there.

  7. The camping rule ignores Lion because it is in pilot. Don’t exclude your Lions from pack camping unless they have no adult partner attending.

  8. It’s still a pilot program. Let Irving iron out the kinks. Now about the age issue, I guess the age cut off for kindergarten will vary from September to December. Some four year olds are ready, some are not.
    Our Council elected not to participate. Instead we took part as a beta test council for the online registration, My person opinion is they probably couldn’t find a service exec willing to take this on.

  9. Chinapete65,
    My Council is not only one of the Beta online registration testers, we also are the original Council for the Lion program, Which was developed several years ago by a D.E. in one of our Districts. Even he has admitted that there are kinks and it is a learning process. I am learning that grabbing the boys in Kindergarten is helpful because it becomes harder to get some of the boys as they get older and involved in sports. I personally do not exclude the Lions from any Pack Activity, the only District/Council event that they are excluded from is Day camp. But technically by the time Summer camp comes around they are Tigers anyway.

  10. I have been a Cubmaster for 6 years now and I think that trying to integrate Kindergarten-age boys into Cub Scouts is a bad idea! Am I the only one who thinks this?

    We have a hard enough time recruiting boys at the end of Kindergarten (when they are all in the same school system) and organizing activities that work for boys in grades 1-5. The idea of trying to extend the age range to include Kindergarteners just seems crazy to me.

    • boys in Kindergarten have few activities to participate in. there is less competition, so the thinking is get them into scouts before they get involved in other stuff.

      What I do is have the older boys “show of the cool stuf they do, so the yougner scouts see whats coming in a year of two and they get excited about it and my drop out rate (no conting those who register and never show up) is anout 4-5% during the year. It stays under 10% from year to year with reregistrations.

  11. My question is still unclear. Our Packs Lions earned the patch last year. How should it be displayed on the button shirt?

    • We had a Pack committee member call the national office with this exact same question and they were told it’s treated as a temporary patch. As such, it would go on the temporary patch pocket of the uniform shirt (at least until they’re awarded another patch that goes there).

      The other, more long-term solution is to place it on his red patch vest instead.

      • The original ‘Tiger Cub Graduate” patches, the ones that were square and uses from 1982 to circa 1989, were also temporary patches.

        They were later replaced with the “Tiger Cub Strip,” which was worn under the right pocket. Then it was a diamond patch worn on the belt fob. Then the diamond was placed finally on the blue uniform in the Webelos badge position.

  12. One more Pinewood Derby idea: MiniBrick cars (using Lego® bricks or Mega® Bloks). For several years, since before Lions, this has been a just-for-fun (no race awards) way to include younger siblings in our event. Each child builds an entry on a 6×16-nib base plate, and we attach a set of the pack’s 2×6-nib steel-brick-and-wheels kits, like those shown here: http://www.derbymagic.com/minibrickderby.html With last year’s Lion pilot, we gave patches to all participants (official and brick, cubs and siblings).

    • Another idea: Die cast race cars, such as Hot Wheels® and Matchbox® cars, fit in the space between the lanes of our track. No assembly required.

  13. I love the lion program. It’s been a huge hit in our area. The weeblos love the kids help them out and show them what needs to be done. They are excited to show the young boys what they can accomplish.Having the Lion take part in pinewood vis what our pack master did last year .The Lions may be little but can do big things .The Lions during our towns tree planting day were the only part of the Den that planted trees. The boys are excited to see they can learn and make an impact .As a mom I don’t mind the meetings and outings .I don’t burn out .I also made new friends , contacts and my child grew so much .We went to camp Tuckahoe it’s last cub weekend .The boys loved it had a blast .The boys were excited to be exploring the world around them .They might not have had many classes for them but it was worth it in all the parents mind of boys going to Tiger . Our pack even grew because of the lion evolvement in our community.we always tell our boys Just because your little doesn’t mean you can’t do big things .Heart is what they have and I am excited to see how each one of the 5 boys grow as we do our tiger program.

  14. Too bad there isn’t another forum for scouting leaders to complain to each other about how “bad” the scouting program is. I direct potential recruits to specific scouting.org web sites and to search Google for more info. I received feedback from a potential Lion recruit’s parent specific to this Bryan on Scouting article – the parent told me the negative blog entries scared her away.

    Frankly, when I was checking into enrolling my boy into Tigers several years ago I was taken back by the comments scouting “leaders” were leaving on scouting blogs. However, I saw through it since I had prior experience as both a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout and knew scouting is great program for boys. Many parents new to scouting may not see through the belly aching though.

    The scouting program is generally great on paper – us leaders either make it great for our boys or make it suck. I would argue belly aching leaders probably aren’t stirring up much excitement in these young boys, which probably contributes low AOL to Boy Scouts transition and to the “4%” problem.

    Keep in mind Bryan on Scouting – and many other blogs – gets top hits on Google when searching scouting subjects. This means your negative comments about the scouting program are right there for potential new parents to see.

    • Last night my DE was telling me about a recruiting event he went to where a pack leader spent 5 minutes complaining on how he had to set up the PWD for his pack alone, and how hard it was. Of the 27 potential new scouts that attended the event, only 6 signed up.

      i signed up 14 new scouts last night by telling them that Scouting is family time. you don’t sit on the sidelines watching you child do something, you do it with them… no screens involved.

  15. The no shooting sports rule is dumb.

    At our council camp we have 3 and 4 year old siblings doing archery and bb shooting with one on one supervision (parent or older boy scout). Now the 4 year old who shoot the BB gun last year when he was a sibling can;t do it when he’s 5 because he’s a registered Lion but the 5 year old next to him who isn’t a Lion can?

    How about we let parents and rangemasters decide if an individual can participate instead of having a blanket policy that makes no sense. I have had to kick Boy scouts off the range for breaking rules.

    Age is not an indicator of maturity or ability.

    Being a national leader is not an indicator of common sense, apparently.

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