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TOPRATE Den Program: Be a "Totally Outdoor, Parent Run, Actively Targeting Excellence" Den!

Break out of the "Meeting mold" ... have a TOPRATE Den Program.  What is more fun for Scouts and Parents, having a "meeting"?  Or doing something fun outside with kids and families?

  • If you're like most Packs, doing something fun outside with kids and families is more fun than the "typical" meeting that doesn't get enough advance planning.

So here is an idea to break out of the rut of just "doing den meetings" ... the new (in 2015) Cub Scout advancement program is not about "doing meetings" but about "having Adventures", with big changes like more hiking, more camping, more outdoors, more hands on fun ... and less lecture, cutting back on crafts, and banishing the boring ... and even though we provide support materials in the Den Leader Guides and more to help parents be parents and lead their children and their friends in the Adventure of Cub Scouting, there can be a simpler and easier approach than Meetings: 

  • Why not have a TOPRATE Cub Scout Den Program?  
  • Why not be a "Totally Outdoor, Parent Run, Actively Targeting Excellence" Den?

The ideas behind a TOPRATE Cub Scout Den Program are:

  • get outdoors and out and about (like field trips) and eliminate (as much as possible, weather permitting) indoors time at den events, so that Den Adventures are done outside (even on schoolyards and local parks and yards) where Scouts will have more fun.
  • engage all Parents, not just one den leader, so that all Parents share the leadership of Den Adventures in ways they can -- nobody has to "do it all".
  • be an activity and adventure based program going places and doing things (even just outside your normal meeting place in the neighborhod), not a meeting based program where Scouts just "sit around".  
  • aim for excellence by combining outdoor and out and about activities with parent involvement and advancement by the Scouts.  

TOPRATE Cub Scout Den might even cut back weeknight meetings to one each month (or none!), so long as the Den Parents schedule enough fun family activities and at those activities the families have the chance to deliver the key Den Adventures from the Handbooks and Leader Guides to enable the Scouts to earn their rank badges if that's what families want to do.  

  • There is no reason why most Den Adventures can't be done as part of a day trip, outdoors activity or campout.
  • And day trips, outdoors activities and campouts are more fun.
  • So ... why not have more fun?

See the notes in the Tiger Adventure Plans page, Wolf Adventure Plans page, Bear page, Webelos page, and Arrow of Light page -- not only are the full Den Leader Guide plans there, but each of those pages has notes about how to make each Adventure a TOPRATE Adventure, doing outside, sharing the leadership of the Scouts by their parents. 

Remember ... if it's Fun for Kids, Fun for Families, and Safe ... it's Cub Scouting.  

Being outdoors and doing fun things with families is what the Den Adventures and Handbooks and Leader Guides are all about.  If you're one of the few leaders at the start, be patient and don't worry about not doing Handbook Advancement work at the first few or four or five weekend activities ...

  • A trip to a public swimming location or a zoo can be … a trip to a public swimming location or a zoo. 
  • Families should go to places like this all the time, so it is great if a group of families can go as a Cub Scout Pack.
  • Keep it simple.  If the destination is fun, the families will have fun.   

And when your Parent Run Den gets momentum you'll find it a lot easier to have Den Leaders and Assistants step up from the parent ranks and do everything your Scouts want to do in the Den Adventures from the Handbooks and Leader Guides.   

And it's OK if the Pack (or some of the dens) don't do advancement adventures (or not thoroughly) at the first few destination events, because it would take time for leadership to emerge. 

  • But there is a greater likelihood that families will like the destination events and hang in there as they learn about the program.
  • So there will be opportunities for discussion like “hey, next time, let’s do this Adventure that I saw in the Handbook: _____”.

This will work even if it takes a few months of going places and doing things (but not yet completing the Den Adventures from the Handbooks) -- so what if families go places and do fun things for a while, and then turn that fun into Cub Scout Advancement.  So go ahead and “take it easy”, and let the collective fun of the kids and families develop relationships organically, they can chat one on one with families, and listen to what they want to do, and maybe drop some ideas.  Like:

  • At some point, a kid will ask “do I get a Cub Scout badge for this?” 
  • Even better, a parent will ask “is there a badge for my son for doing swimming?” 
  • And if a kid asks, redirect that to the parents … “do you want your son to get a badge?”

Then when the parents want to see their kids get advancement recognition, they can be reminded of what they can do:

  • For example, for water activities, the attached flyer says “the Adventure Advancement Options “if we want” are: for Tigers: Floats and Boats; Wolves: Spirit of the Water; Bears: Salmon Run; Webelos: Aquanaut”,
  • and “’when the plan says  ‘if we want’, that means this is subject to parents organizing a Den Advancement Adventure activity at the event, and Scouts completing the requirements”.

We have a better chance to involve parents if we first let parents take families to fun destination events and participate even very casually in those fun events … and there is a better chance of developing a corps of den leaders and assistants over time, time that they can have even if they just do fun events for months before bearing down to the handbook requirement stuff.