Re: Webelos graduation
Alan Houser (troop24@EMF.NET)
Fri, 23 Dec 1994 11:43:33 -0800
I wholeheartedly endorse the concept of early Webelos graduation, but I want
to share some of my experiences from both sides of the bridge.
Typically we saw most of our second-year Webelos lose interest in the
program between the summer before their second year and the June bridging
into Boy Scouts. A common complaint was, "It's too much like school," or
I'm tired of this Cub Scout stuff." My second time through I caught wind
of the idea of early bridging. By this time I had also been involved in
the Troop and through Basic Scout Leader Training, so I had a different
perspective on the aims of the Webelos program.
We had two dens of 6 Webelos in each, but they had grown from a single
Wolf Den 3 years earlier, so we worked together a lot. In September,
before the first meetings, we had a picnic and I spoke to the group about
my plan for bridging at the Blue & Gold dinner. The deal would be, we
would work on the requirements for the Arrow of Light together and would
spend the rest of our den time in outdoors activities and visiting troops.
Any of them who wanted to work on additional activity badges beyond the
AOL requirements were free to do so on their own time.
It worked, we got all 12 of them through their requirements in time for
the Blue & Gold, and we bridged all 12 of them into 4 separate troops.
It was the first time in my 7 years in the Pack that all of the second-year
Webelos stayed in to the end or that they all joined troops.
Seven of them joined Troop 24 and became the Cobra Patrol. My Den Chief
became their Troop Guide and they went to work getting ready for Camporee
in a scant two months. At Camporee, they did extremely well, nearly
beating the oldest patrol in scoring and easily dusting off the other
At the same time, I had been recruiting another pack's Webelos. I tried
to encourage them toward an early graduation, but they (the parents) felt
the boys wanted to be "King of Pack" for a little while longer. They
earned their AOL in March, then planned to work on a couple more activity
badges before bridging in May. We left the door open for them to drop in
on our meetings anytime they wanted (they did), and they went to Camporee
with us, competing as a Webelos Den. They also more or less stopped meeting
as a den -- it was more exciting to be in Boy Scouts.
Both dens had camping experience with the Troop before summer camp, the
one as a patrol, the other as a den that would come into the Troop largely
intact as another patrol.
On the upside, we gained two strong patrols that felt very much a part of
the Troop before summer camp. The older Scouts knew them (although there
were so many that it took a while to get the names straight), and they
knew the older Scouts. This was a significant contrast to other years
(including this past year) when the new Scouts join the Troop just before
summer camp, have no other camping experience with the Troop other than
a possible campout the previous fall, and whom nobody, including the
leaders in camp, knows how to read for signs of homesickness, etc. For
many, it is their first time in a long term camp without their parents
and among total strangers.
On the downside, some people have mentioned that some kids may not be
ready for Boy Scouts at that age. And we did lose some of them after
summer camp, including one who didn't go. Maybe an extra year might
have made them feel more secure, but I don't think a couple of months
would have made a difference.
Also, I wasn't prepared for the impact on the Pack. At the next Pack
meeting, suddenly it seemed as if half the Pack was gone (it was only
a third, but a number of key leaders missed that meeting because of
a conflict), and there was a real crisis of confidence in being able
to carry on (remember this was in the middle of the time when we
could not recruit in the Berkeley schools). The remaining Leaders
felt they could not carry on by themselves and opted to merge with
another Berkeley Pack before summer.
To summarize, I think that early graduation of Webelos into Boy Scouts
serves both the boys and the troops best, but the key is preparing
the Webelos themselves to be Boy Scouts. That means starting to teach
them to take over their own program, so I think that Webelos Den Leaders
should take Boy Scout Leader Training before the second year. The
impact on the Pack should not be overlooked either, and while I thought
I had prepared my successors adequately, they evidently did not. In
essence, I had let them down by doing too much of the program for them.
That sounds like a fundamental lesson for all of us.
Alan R. Houser ** Scoutmaster, Berkeley Troop 24 ** firstname.lastname@example.org
** WWW page ** http://www.emf.net/~troop24/t24.html **
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City