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Cub Scout Changes 2015: Why, How and What

Cub Scout Changes 2015

Most of you know that I attended a training session at Philmont Training Center titled, “Get the 411 on the New Cub Scout Adventure Program.”  I want to share with you what I learned about why the program is changing, how BSA developed the new Cub Scout program and what the new program will look like.

So, why exactly did the Boy Scouts of America change the Cub Scout program? Wasn't the old one just fine?  Well, actually, it wasn't.

With only minor changes, the Cub Scout program has been the same for the past 45 years.  We all know that today's 8 year old is very different than the 8 year old of 45 years ago.  In fact, I suspect that most parents of 8 year olds weren't even born 45 years ago!

And don't forget how complex advancement is in our current program.  Requirements, electives, progress towards rank devices, belt loops and pins, arrow points and compass points is confusing for leaders and hard for advancement chairmen.

In 2010, our National Council developed a strategic plan for years 2011-2105.  One of the goals of that plan was to continuously seek to make the Boy Scouts of America’s programs the best that they can be – the most engaging, the most relevant and the most valuable possible for America’s youth and families. A Task Force was appointed to help reach this goal, and they have been working since the fall of 2010.

The Task Force was comprised of about 75 volunteers from across the country.  It was led by Russ Hunsaker from the Great Salt Lake Council.  He is an Eagle Scout and Silver Buffalo award recipient.

The first part of the plan was to assess our current Cub Scout program.  The assessment revealed the following findings:

  1. Many of our advancement requirements support passive rather than active behavior.
  2. Leader aids are insufficient in guiding leaders on how to fulfill aims – lack tools and resources to implement aims.
  3. Youth handbooks lack breath and frequency of activities/learning situations that support the aims.

As a result of the assessment, the Task Force defined five “organizing principles” or core content areas around which the new Cub Scout program 2015 would be developed.  Within each principle, “desired outcomes” were identified.  Those principles and desired outcomes are:

  1. Character Development
    1. Scout Oath & Law
    2. Duty to God
  2. Core Content Areas for Cub Scout Program Changes 2015Participatory Citizenship
    1. Civic Awareness & Patriotism
    2. Service
    3. Stewardship
  3. Personal Fitness
    1. Physical Fitness
    2. Healthy Eating
    3. Wellness & Healthy Habits
  4. Outdoor Skills & Awareness
    1. Comfort, Safety & Adventure in the Outdoors
    2. Nature & Outdoor Ethics
    3. Emergency Skills
  5. Leadership
    1. Supporting Leaders
    2. Leadership Thinking
    3. Leading Others

To develop the advancement program, 14 volunteers from each region were asked to form the Cub Adventure Team (CAT).  Each of the volunteers have between 20 and 30 years experience in the Cub Scout program serving units, districts or councils.  Some of the volunteers have served on National Cub Scout task forces and on National Cub Scout training courses.

The member of the CAT were asked to accomplish the following:

  • Assure that all of the activities in which Cub Scouts engage are fun and connected to the mission and aims of the BSA.
  • Reinforce den-based advancement as the most common model of advancement. The new program includes family activities but recognizes that the majority of advancement happens in the den.
  • Reduce complexity of advancement.

I believe they have accomplished what they set out to do.  The new Cub Scout program is going to be fun for the boys, easier for the leaders and much less complicated for advancement chairmen.

Instead of “working on advancement,” the boys will now do “adventures.”  Now, which would your boys rather do–work on advancement or do an adventure?  🙂

For each rank, the boys will complete seven adventures to earn their badge of rank.  This includes one family-based Duty to God adventure.  The number of required and elective adventures for each rank is listed below.

  • Tiger: Six required adventures and one elective adventure
  • Wolf: Six required adventures and one elective adventure
  • Bear: Six required adventures and one elective adventure
  • Webelos: Five required adventures and two elective adventures
  • Arrow of Light: Four required adventures and three elective adventures

Tigers, Wolves and Bears can select from 13 elective adventures. Webelos and Arrow of Light share 18 elective adventures. Having such a broad base of electives allows for individual or den-based exploration and support for a year-round program.

What exactly is an “adventure?”  It is a themed block of content designed to work in an interdisciplinary manner to support the desired outcomes.  Each adventure will take about two or three den meetings to complete.  They may include an outing or field trip.  When a boy completes an adventure (required or elective), he will receive a recognition device.

The recognition devices work the same way as those for the Sports and Academics program meaning they are loops that go over the boys' belts.  I hesitate to call them “belt loops” because many of us (including me!) think of the Sports and Academics program and belt loops interchangeably.  They really aren't–the belt loops are simply the recognition devices for the Sports and Academics program.

To help den leaders deliver a quality program in less time, the CAT group developed leader guides for each rank (rather than one guide with all ranks).  We were given a “sampler” guide with examples of den meeting plans for an adventure in each rank.  One of the things that I love about the plans is that we are given information about the rationale of each adventure.  It's so much easier to run a den meeting if you understand the goal of that meeting.  For example, one of the Tiger adventures is “Games Tigers Play.”  The rationale reads,  “This adventure will help boys develop appropriate emotional responses, engage in shared decision making in group settings, and encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.”

Based on the sampler, I believe leaders are going to love the new den leader guides.  Who knows?  They just may make it easier to recruit new leaders.

Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the “why,” the “how” and the “what” of the new program.  Over the next few days, I'll be giving you more information about the changes to the Cub Scout program in 2015.

Yours in Scouting,

P.S. Don't forget to sign up below so you can stay up to date on the changes!

Cub Scouting’s New Beginning

Monday 1st of June 2015

[…] sources include a Pinterest page on the new Cub programĀ and Sherry Smotherman-Short’s Cub Scout Ideas website with comprehensive information on the new […]


Sunday 1st of March 2015

I find the "den-based advancement" frustrating dens around here are anemic at best and I LOVE helping my cub scout with his achievements!


Tuesday 10th of March 2015

That's understandable. Even though the program was geared toward being completed within the dens, there's nothing that says you can't continue to work with your son! In fact, since the new adventures are so much fun, I think you'll both enjoy it even more.

It sounds like you're a really engaged parent. Have you ever thought about serving as a den leader or assistant den leader? Or even just offer to plan and run one of the den meetings. As a former den leader myself, it would have been great to have a parent offer to do that!

Thanks for reading!

Anona Pack

Sunday 22nd of February 2015

I would like to be added to your email list.


Tuesday 10th of March 2015

Just added you! Thanks for reading!


Wednesday 3rd of December 2014

Under new program, will Webelos be able to earn Super Achiever as before?


Thursday 4th of December 2014

Until I went to Philmont, I didn't know that the Webelos Super Achiever award is not an official BSA award. It is one that was developed and adopted by individual councils. So, the individual councils will need to make a decision about the award. Sorry I couldn't be of more help!


Monday 22nd of September 2014

Will another program be replacing the Sports/Academic Belt Loop/Pin program?



Monday 22nd of September 2014

No, John, it won't. A lot of the activities that were found in the Sports & Academics program are now elective adventures in the new program. Boys can do as many adventures as they want. They'll earn a recognition device (which looks like the old belt loops) for each adventure. You can see the prototypes of the new devices at this post.