“The kids come up with the ideas, and the dads just completely make the derby and the kids paint it,” said James. “It’s not good.”

There’s more than one reason  most Cub Scouts never transform into Eagle earning Scouts. Despite all the good intentions of Scouting, the programs, the activities, the camaraderie– somewhere we fall short.

In fact, statistically nearly 30 percent of Scouts never make it past their first year. The question of what causes this dropout rate has been addressed by writers, parents, and leaders.

But, we decided to ask the real experts about their opinions on Cub Scouting—the Cubs. Young teen John* recently transitioned into Scouting. Ten-Year-old James* is in Cub Scouts, but he has disliked the experience in the past.  

Here’s what they had to say on the good, bad, and change-worthy things of Cub Scouts:

On Fun

Neither boy wanted to go to Cub Scout activities when it didn’t seem ‘fun’.  

“Sometimes I liked it. Sometimes, I didn’t,” said John. He mentioned how exciting activities were when they were active. Shooting BB guns, playing at pack night, and being next to the camp fire were fun, he thought. 

He did not, however, like just sitting and talking about a topic. For example, one Cubmaster would often just read from the book. John thought it was very boring, and he suggested that leaders try doing more things outside to keep it lively.

James, a current Cub,  feels like things aren’t fun when memorization is involved. He said, “Sometimes I was really excited to go. But when we did just memorizing lines and stuff I didn’t really want to go.”

He suggests making memorization more fun by giving out more prizes or improving the content being memorized (perhaps, this could be done by helping Cubs understand  the importance behind what they are memorizing or making games out of it).

On Relationships

Both boys continued on with Cub Scouting, and both boys developed positive relationships with the boys in their dens. Coincidence? Probably not.

In John’s den, the boys all grew up together. Many of them were the same religion, and they all shared similar values. He said they were mostly all friends.

James’ has an important buddy in his den. “We’re best friends. I go to his house every day,” he says. He indicates that if he didn’t have a friend in Scouting, it would not go well for him:  “I wouldn’t want to go.”

 He suggests that leaders reach out to boys and encourage them to be friends with those feeling outcast.

On Leaders

James listed qualities he likes about leaders he’s had: organization, preparation, and planning. He said he didn’t like it when mixed messages were sent—boys getting punished for actions on some days and not others.

John said his leader was “awesome, fun, and likes playing games.”

Where’s the Camping?

 Without direct prompting, both boys brought up their desires for more camping in Cub Scouting.

“Every time we went on a camp out, it was really fun,” said  John. He says that now he’s a Scout he gets to go camping monthly, and he thinks there should be a lot more camp outs among Cubs.

James never has been camping as a Cub. He said Cubs aren’t allowed to go camping (while this is not true, he believes it is, at least for his age). “We could do more grown up things like camping out,” he said.

James feels Cubs needed to be more trusted  in their competence (like being able to camp). Also, he said when activities are really easy, they are boring.

There may be reasons why we as adults don’t take Cubs camping, but the boys sure don’t know those reasons. 

There’s a lot of experts on Cub Scouting. People’ve tried different methods and seen how boys react. But, the boys themselves know what they like. 

“It isn’t good,” said James about Pinewood Derby. What else do we do that’s not good? 

Listen to the boys. Hear their thoughts. Then, implement their suggestions. As we listen to them, they’ll listen to us. Cub Scouting will be better because we trusted the Cubs to make it that way.

*Names have been changed to allow candidness among two boys

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Michelle Carpenter
is a reporter for the Voice of Scouting and a marketing associate for The Utah National Parks Council. Her father, husband, and brother are all Eagle Scouts, so she firmly believes some of the best men did Scouting.

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