By: Anthony Berger (National Director, Cub Scouting), Lisa Wylie (National Cub Scouting Chair), Michael Rooney (National Cub Scouting Commissioner)
Getting youth outdoors is a priority of the Cub Scout program! The National Cub Scouting committee considers getting youth outside an essential part of Cub Scouts. Being in the outdoors is not just an aim or method of Cub Scouting, but it is what many think about when they consider our program. But when we talk about getting Cub Scouts outdoors, this also means getting Cub Scouts’ adults outdoors too. What does this mean? Simply, any outdoor program we plan in Cub Scouting must be attractive to both the Cub Scout and their adults.
Internal and external research shows that mom is usually the decision maker when it comes to extracurricular activities for children of Cub Scout age. Therefore, building outdoor activities and events that appeal to moms is key to getting as many Cub Scouts outdoors as possible.
Today and moving forward, Cub Scouting will continue to make outdoor related adventures a required, critical part of our Cub Scout ranks. However, based on feedback from families and leaders, some of our current outdoor Adventures are too advanced and can be intimidating to new families.
While Cub Scout youth list camping as the #1 reason they wanted to join Cub Scouting, their parents may be anxious or concerned about what camping might be like for their family. So, let’s start small! Our program progression is designed to expose Cub Scout families to the outdoors in steps. The goal is to increase everyone’s comfort level and lead to more advanced activities such as a hike or overnight campout. Starting small may be something as simple as taking a walk. We might even say outdoor walk and not a hike. A hike for many without any outdoor background invokes images of mountains, hiking boots, and backpacks. Another option might be to visit a local park and practice some very simple Scout skills that are part of our Cub Scout ranks. Many Cub Scout rank and elective requirements are easily done outside versus sitting inside a den leader’s home or in a school gym.
For packs who may not have trained BALOO leaders or unsure how to go camping with their pack, we can encourage these units to participate in district or council events. These events can provide all the fun and adventure a Cub Scout is looking for but require less planning and management by the pack to coordinate. For those packs who have a strong family camping program, perhaps they can share with other leaders at a Roundtable or other council communication their favorite (approved) locations to go camping and some tips for making it easier on families and leaders to plan and implement. Leaders listen to leaders, especially those who are in their local area
As we constantly review and look for opportunities to improve the Cub Scout program, our focus is to get Cub Scout families outside. In fact, it is a win if we can get Cub Scouts and their family outside! Getting outside looks different in each community and neighborhood; lets help Cub Scouts and their families have a purposeful, welcoming outdoor adventure.