Mechanics of Advancement: In Cub Scouting Delivering the Cub Scout Program

Den leaders, Cubmasters, and their assistants conduct meetings implementing the three steps in Cub Scout advancement: preparation, qualification, and recognition. Four separate den leader guides—one each for the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear programs, and one combined for Webelos and Arrow of Light—explain the mechanics for doing so while helping to maximize advancement. Den meetings—ideally three per month, one of which may include an outing—follow a traditional school year and are designed to result in advancement for all boys. Elective adventure plans provide flexibility for dens that meet more often and facilitate summertime den activities or adjustments for different school schedules. To achieve a full experience and the greatest impact, “do-at-home projects” challenge and encourage parents and sons to work together. Packs should meet monthly to assure timely recognition of the Cub Scouts’ accomplishments. The Role of the Pack Committee

Den leaders, Cubmasters, and their assistants stimulate interest in advancement and present the program where it occurs. The responsibility for Cub Scout advancement administration, however, belongs to a pack committee ( “Unit Advancement Responsibilities,” The pack committee collects den advancement reports, compiles and maintains them in pack records, reports advancement to the council (see “Internet Advancement Reporting,”, purchases awards and ensures their prompt presentation, and helps plan and facilitate various ceremonies. The committee may also recommend special pack activities that lead to greater levels of achievement.

Consult the Cub Scout Leader Book, No. 33221, to learn more about the responsibilities of the pack committee. Who Approves Cub Scout Advancement?

A key responsibility for den leaders is to implement the den meeting plans as outlined in the four den leader guides shown within this topic. For Tiger through Bear ranks, if the activity is completed outside of the den meeting, the parent, adult partner, or another trusted adult should sign in the boy’s handbook, indicating the Cub Scout has done his best to complete the requirement. The den leader then approves that requirement after consultation with the family or the boy to confirm completion. If the requirement is completed in a den meeting, the den leader signs in both places. Den leaders may, however, ask an assistant or parent who helps at meetings to play the role of “Akela” and assist with the approvals. For Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks, the den leader signs for approval of all requirements, unless the den leader delegates this responsibility.

Akela (Ah-KAY-la) is a title of respect used in Cub Scouting—any good leader is Akela, who is also the leader and guide for Cub Scouts on the advancement trail.

What about a boy who must repeat a grade in school? Generally, repeating a grade does not mean being kept back in Cub Scouting, but it depends on the circumstances and what is best for the boy. The decision is up to the parent or guardian. “Do Your Best”

Cub Scouts—even those of the same age—may have very different developmental timetables. For this reason, advancement performance in Cub Scouting is centered on its motto: “Do Your Best.” When a boy has done this—his very best—then regardless of the requirements for any rank or award, it is enough; accomplishment is noted. This is why den leaders, assistants, and parents or guardians are involved in approvals. Generally they know if effort put forth is really the Cub Scout’s best.

When a boy completes advancement, he should be congratulated immediately and publicly. And though badges of rank should be reserved for the next pack meeting, it is best to present items such as belt loops and pins soon after they have been earned. If it is possible for the pack to report and purchase these awards quickly, they could be presented at a den meeting, rather than waiting for a pack meeting. If presented at den meetings, the accompanying pocket certificates can be used in a ceremony at a subsequent pack meeting—or vice versa with the pocket certificates at a den meeting. However this is done, it is important to note that advancement is an individual process, not dependent on the work or progress of others. Awards should not be withheld for group recognition. Likewise, a boy should not be presented with recognition he has not earned simply so that he will “not feel left out.”

In the same spirit as “Do Your Best,” if a Cub Scout is close to earning a badge of rank when it is time for him to transition to a new den, the pack committee, in consultation with the den leader and the Cub Scout’s parent or guardian, may allow him a few weeks to complete the badge before going on to the next rank. Earning it will give him added incentive to continue in Scouting and carry on and tackle the next rank.

What about a boy who must repeat a grade in school? Generally, repeating a grade does not mean being kept back in Cub Scouting, but it depends on the circumstances and what is best for the boy. The decision is up to the parent or guardian. Cub Scout Ranks

The Cub Scout program is centered primarily in the den, the home, and the neighborhood, but often takes place in the outdoors. It leads to advancement through six ranks, which—except for the Bobcat rank—are grade- or age-based.

Bobcat. Earned first by all Cub Scouts, no matter what age they join.
Tiger. For boys who have completed kindergarten or are 7 years old.
Wolf. For boys who have completed first grade or are 8 years old.
Bear. For boys who have completed second grade or are 9 years old.
Webelos. For boys who have completed third grade or are 10 years old.
Arrow of Light. For boys who have completed fourth grade.

Cub Scouts do not “go back” and work on ranks designed for earlier grade levels, even if missed due to their time of joining. Likewise, Cub Scouts do not “move ahead” to the next rank until the completion of the current school year (or until their next birthday if their chartered organization transitions by age). Bobcat

Regardless of what age or grade a boy joins Cub Scouting, he begins with the Bobcat rank. It involves learning about the values, signs, and symbols of the Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouting. While he is working on Bobcat he may work simultaneously on the rank for his age or grade, but he must finish Bobcat before any other rank is awarded.

Note that Cub Scouts do not go back and work on ranks missed due to their age at the time of joining. Tiger, Wolf, and Bear

For Tiger, Wolf, and Bear ranks—which are earned by Cub Scouts who have completed kindergarten, first grade, and second grade respectively (or are age 7, 8, or 9, respectively)—the boy completes several adventures as described in the youth handbooks. Most of those adventures are required and at least one is chosen from the electives available for each rank. “Adventures” are collections of themed, multidisciplinary activities representing approximately three den meetings of engaging content. Elective and required adventures may be undertaken at the same time. As the boys finish an adventure, they are awarded a belt loop that is worn on the official Cub Scout belt. Belt loops should be presented as soon as possible. When the requirements for each rank are fulfilled, the rank badge is presented at the next pack meeting. Note that although participation with an adult partner is required for all Tiger adventures, recognition items are for the Cub Scouts only. Webelos and Arrow of Light

Just as with the previous ranks, Cub Scouts complete a specified number of adventures as they earn the Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks. The mix of required and elective adventures for the Webelos rank and for the Arrow of Light rank is fully explained in each program’s youth handbook. The Webelos and Arrow of Light ranks have some additional requirements in addition to the adventures. For the Webelos rank, Scouts must have completed the third grade (or be 10 years old) and must be an active member of the Webelos den for three months. For the Arrow of Light rank, Scouts must be active in the Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade (or since becoming 10 years old). An adventure pin is awarded for each completed adventure. These may be worn on the Webelos colors or on the front of the Webelos cap. The boys are free to work on required and elective adventure pins at the same time. Adventure pins should be presented as soon as possible. When the requirements for the Webelos or Arrow of Light ranks are fulfilled, the rank badge is presented at the next pack meeting.

Webelos, an acronym for “WE’ll BE LOyal Scouts,”
is the rank for boys who have completed third grade
or are 10 years old. Webelos Scouts can choose
between the diamond and oval patches for
uniform wear.

The Arrow of Light rank is the only Cub Scout badge
authorized to be worn on the Boy Scout uniform
once a boy transitions into a troop; it is worn below
the left pocket. On an adult uniform, the Arrow of
Light rank is recognized with a red and green square
knot worn above the left pocket.

Boys who join Cub Scouting for the first time as a
member of an Arrow of Light den, or boys who were
previously members of a Webelos den but did not
earn the Webelos rank, shall work on Arrow of Light
requirements during their fifth-grade year. They can
earn the Arrow of Light Award without earning the
Webelos rank.

Arrow of Light is Cub Scouting’s final rank before Boy Scouts. Much of the experience gives the Cub Scouts the chance to practice skills that prepare them to become Boy Scouts. Once completed, the rank should be presented during an impressive ceremony involving Scouts from a local Scout troop. Their involvement may encourage the eventual “bridging” of recipients into the troop.

The minimum age for a Cub Scout who has earned the Arrow of Light Award to become a Boy Scout is 10 years old. The requirements for joining Boy Scouting, as stated in the Boy Scout Handbook, include the following: “Be a boy who is 11 years old, or one who has completed the fifth grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old…” More on Webelos and Arrow of Light Adventure Pins

Many adventure pins help Webelos and Arrow of Light Scouts develop interests in areas that may lead to hobbies or career choices. The Webelos and Arrow of Light den leaders and assistants, and the den chief, may handle portions of instruction during meetings. But some pins will have more meaning when a knowledgeable adventure pin “counselor” works with the boys on the requirements, providing resources, leading field trips, and giving other useful service. A parent or family member, pack leader, teacher, coach, or other adult with talents or skills related to the specific pin may serve in this capacity. A local Scoutmaster or the district advancement chair can help identify merit badge counselors who might also work with related adventure pins.

Note that except for the references to merit badge counselors, the policies and procedures for adventure pins offered through non-Scouting organizations or businesses, and those regarding charging fees for adventure pin opportunities, are the same as those described in section 7, “The Merit Badge Program,” topics and