11/30/16 Cub Scout Advancement Changes: Language Change Comparisons, and Advice about your Program Choices

On November 30, 2016, modifications to Cub Scout Advancement requirements were announced (see the initial Blog post and comments, plus this December 3 FAQ blog post ... the announced changes are linked through the BSA Program Updates page).  The "program updates" page linked in the blog post may replace the attached changed requirements without notice (already, it has revised to reflect that Webelos and Arrow of Light tenure requirements remain at 3 and 6 months respectively).  

Comments from the District Cub Leader Trainer, Bert Bender (feedback and questions are welcomed at cubleadertraining@southfultonscouting.com):

Advice to Leaders and Parents (About How to Navigate the Choices available with the 11/30/16 Version).  For those curious about the details of these changes, and to supplement the general descriptions from the Blogs linked above, attached below are text comparisons of the requirements, showing exactly what changed and what didn't change (or what got moved around in a requirement), where there were any language changes of substance.  This is updated as of December 27 (some changes have been made during the month by the BSA).  

  • That attachment below is updated also to add highlighted “Practical Comments about Changes” with respect to each Adventure.  This is intended as a practical guide to (1) whether you need to look at the new 11/30/16 language for a given adventure, (2) why it might be a useful alternative for you in this 2016-2017 program year if you are having a difficult time with an Adventure for one or more Scouts, and (3) if using the 11/30/16 elements provides enough quality experience for your Scouts and families. Where there is really no change of substance, only the name of the Adventure is listed.
  • While it is possible to look at these “Practical Comments about Changes” as a guide to how to get Adventures done faster just to do it faster with fewer elements completed by your Scouts, please also consider the comments encouraging (sometimes pleading) that Scouts and dens avoid that sort of “easy button” approach.  
    • Doing the June 1, 2015 handbook elements will often result in the best outcomes and experience in Cub Scouting.  
    • Doing the minimum based on these 11/30/16 revisions may result in your Scouts missing some of the best experiences available in Cub Scouting.

Camping:  Don't Cancel Camping!  The most significant change may be that overnight camping can be optional, because a new alternate exists to attending campouts.   

  • Under the 2015 Requirements in the Handbooks, camping was optional for some units under the note "If your chartered organization does not permit Cub Scout camping, you may substitute a family campout or a daylong outdoor activity with your den or pack".
  • This applied to Required Adventures for camping in Wolf, Bear and Arrow of Light (though astute observers of the Wolf requirement noted that Call of the Wild stated "attend a pack or family campout" but did not have a specific stay out overnight requirement, so Scouts and families who came for the day and through evening campfire received an excellent experience without the difficulty of the overnight element).  
  • The new requirements allow instead to just "attend ... An outdoor activity with your den or pack".  
  • Packs and Parents are advised to not "hit the easy button" on these new requirements and do the minimum:  
    • the main impetus for this non-camping option arises from cold weather locations where it is believed that there is not enough time at the start of the school year to get a camping activity completed before temperatures are too severe.  
    • And many in cold climes note that "we have warm clothes, don't worry about us ... we won't freeze!"
  • Fortunately for us in Georgia, it is possible to camp in fairly temperate weather for a longer period, and we have many many excellent options for Cub Scout Camping.  
  • And for your Scouts to get the most out of the program, they will long remember the days and nights spent in the woods at campouts with you and their other Cub Scout friends.  Please give them that opportunity!  They may remember the camping longer than the cub scout rank badge.  And this is something verified by the BSA through Voice of the Scout ... see the Spring 2014 results, with the conclusion that "Of those Cub Scouts who agree that they are having great outdoor activities, 94.5% are also agreeing that Scouting is really fun… and this group’s [Net Promoter Score] is 48.0%" and "Finding more ways to integrate fun, advancement and the outdoors will help improve Cub Scout loyalty."

Options and Alternates.  The most common "flexible" options arise where an Adventure initially stated something like "Do all 8 of the following", now it might say "Do 6 of the following 8", often stipulating a few 'required' elements.  

  • In some cases, this might be very helpful where some (but not all) of the Requirements can be done easily in a particular locale with readily available resources, but one or more may be difficult to complete and could use alternate ways to allow boys the developmental experience and the fun of Cub Scouting.  
    • Adding an alternate to complete an element with the family rather than the den is a good change to allow those who miss a den activity day to catch up.
  • On the other hand, where meaningful adventure elements are made optional, and there is no alternative that provides the similar fun and similar youth development skill or outcome, making elements optional can weaken what would otherwise be a more valuable program and make participation less meaningful for those who just do the "easy" options.  
  • So, use of alternate ways to complete an adventure can be a positive development, provided the alternate selections are rich with content and the boy doesn't miss out on valuable experience and activities.  
    • But it seems that creation of new good "alternate activities" has been less emphasized than simply making some "hard" requirements totally optional. 
  • In the attached comments on use of these new 11/30/16 requirements, this commentator has flagged some of the key elements that might be ignored now as "optional", many of which are rich program elements that, if skipped, would deprive a boy of the best of Scouting.  
    • While there is real empathy for the boy who "missed a meeting" due to no fault of the boy, hopefully there will be opportunities to "make up" the missed element, either by further den activity during the year or by family activity.   

Reduce Number of Meetings.   Another goal of this adjustment is to reduce the number of sessions (or meetings) needed to complete an Adventure, as the Den Leader Guides for most of the Adventures specify two meetings followed by a field trip or other outing.  

  • Note that nothing in the announcement actually specifies how Adventure sessions (or meetings) will be condensed from those found in the Den Leader Guides (other than the reduction of the number of Adventures for Webelos and Arrow of Light, to 6 and 5, respectively) ...
  • ... but readers of our pages of commentary on the Adventures (see the pages to the left on this website) will note that we have flagged readily available options to condense from 3 sessions to 2 for many adventures (mainly by flagging some den meeting elements that, while super fun and excellent, can be leader-intensive and time-intensive, and are not necessary for completion of an Adventure).  We have also offered ideas about how to conduct Adventures as day or campout events on weekends. 
  • Reducing the implicit number of necessary meetings can be a positive development as well, because under the prior Cub Scout Advancement requirements before 2015, some Ranks could be earned in as few as 8 Den Meetings, and the others could be done in no more than 11 or 12 based on published Guides -- now, assuming the family faith adventures are done at home, the Den Leader Guides effective June 1, 2015 set out 18 sessions to complete those 6 non-DtG Adventures.  
  • For those who want to do more today, there is more: for more active and engaged dens, especially those that really start in August (and not October, like some who rely on late recruiting), there remains a wealth of content, both in the "extra" elements of Adventure ideas found in the Den Leader Guides for Required Adventures, and in the many many Elective Adventures that Scouts may work on.


Stay tuned.  Do your Best.