Webelos is a 20 month program for 4th and 5th grade boys to prepare to join a Boy Scout troop while learning outdoors skills and participating in 20 different activity badges. A well-run group of Webelos is a gradual change from being an 'adult-run' den to being a 'boy-run' patrol ready to fit right into an adventurous scouting troop. This migration requires the parents and den leaders to give the scouts more and more control, decision-making power, and responsibility as they progress in skills, abilities, and maturity. A good program also provides the scouts with many opportunities to grow in the Webelos Virtues.
Our Webelos den has been very exciting to watch as the boys change from being squirrely 3rd graders mostly intent on running around and playing to being a patrol that can recognize a goal, the requirements to fulfill the goal, and the ambition to accomplish the goal. The trail to the destination is as rewarding as the destination, but they learn to plan the work and work the plan and enjoy the process. Of course, we did not turn everything over to the boys at the First Webelos Meeting - we gradually give them more tasks to do, such as taking attendance, checking uniforms, leading flag ceremonies, making announcements, preparing snacks, planning Webelos activity badge outings, organizing campouts, and leading entire meetings.
We are having very good success running the Webelos program more adult-led up through January of the 4th grade, gradually passing responsibility to the scouts. By that time, each scout earns his Webelos rank badge so it is a good time to change from blue shirts to tan, receive the Webelos badge, and start morphing into a patrol.
It is also a good point to start promoting the fact that each scout is responsible for his own advancement and there will be few 'den-wide' completions of activity badges - each boy will complete on his own schedule. We concentrate on having more patrol games, contests, and skill-building rather than activities directly related to an activity badge at our den meetings - this causes each scout to perform more of the activity badge requirements on his own and then contact the den leader for sign off. Again, this is a gradual change over a few months and we still do activity badge projects and tasks at the meetings, but not all of them.
The Webelos program has two major milestones - the Webelos rank badge to be earned around February of 4th grade and the Arrow of Light to be earned around February of 5th grade. The final part of Webelos is bridging over into a Boy Scout troop selected individually by the scout.
Once the goals of Webelos are understood, the methods of the program make a lot of sense! There are a few major changes between Cub Scouts and Webelos scouts that are very important to the success of your program. Some adult leaders and parents find it difficult to adjust to these changes so a Parent Meeting to discuss expectations and changes from Cub Scouts is critical to your success. Use parents to plan and lead individual activity badges. The Webelos den leader will have more paperwork and tracking than the wolf or bear den leader.
Important differences from Cub Scouts to Webelos:
- Advancement Sign Off - each Webelos scout is supposed to take his handbook to the den leader or assistant den leader for sign off when a requirement is completed. This is a change from having a parent sign off every activity. This change prepares the scout to have a ScoutMaster sign off each advancement requirement in Boy Scouts. There is more responsibility put on the scout to remember and bring his handbook to meetings and get it signed.
Tip: Help the scouts along until they get the routine. Have them bring their Webelos handbook to every meeting and reward them for bringing them until they get it. Have a list of activity badge requirements that you plan on completing at a meeting so you, your assistant, or a parent on your behalf can sign off those that are completed right away. This will help the scouts understand the importance of the handbook.
- Webelos Activity Badges - Bear and Wolf scouts earned red or yellow progress towards rank beads to string on a totem. Once enough were earned, they received the rank badge. Webelos moves closer to the Boy Scout merit badge system with a recognizable pin for each activity badge earned. Individual scouts may earn different badges at different times and there are only a couple badges that are mandatory to earn ranks. This change gives the scout more control over his advancement and lets him choose areas he enjoys more.
- Camping - Webelos dens should Camp! Cub Scouts can camp as a pack, but Webelos should go out as a den as much as possible to give the scouts opportunities to learn and use their Outdoorsman, Naturalist, Forester, and Readyman skills. Each Webelos scout needs to have an adult responsible for him on each camping trip. Campouts in the backyard with dinner and s'mores made on a gas grill can be a great way to ease your scouts into the world of camping. Taking your den to a district or council organized summer Webelos camp should be a required part of your program. Most councils have a one or two day overnight camp every summer for Webelos. A Packing List is helpful for a short campout.
Tip: Be sure you follow Rules for Safe Scouting practices on your camping trips.
- Patrols - a patrol is just another name for the den but it does have some significance. Boy Scouts are organized into Patrols, each with their own name, flag, yell, leader, and emblem. As Webelos, a den can begin to operate as a patrol and select an emblem for their uniform, make up a yell, name, and flag. This can really get the scouts to become a team. Taking their flag along on a campout or hike and announcing themselves with their yell is pretty fun.
Tip: A great time to start working as a patrol is when everyone in the den earns their Webelos rank. Have a den meeting with the goal of becoming a patrol - choosing a name, selecting an emblem, coming up with a yell, and designing a flag. You might also elect a patrol leader (a denner) to serve for the next month. Each month, a new patrol leader should be elected so each scout has the opportunity to practice his leadership skills. The den leader should spend some extra time with the patrol leader explaining how to run a meeting and giving him encouragement to lead his friends.
Webelos Den Leader:
A well-trained, organized, and caring Den Leader is critical to the success of a Webelos Den. The Webelos Den Leader takes on the responsibility of making advancement opportunities available to the scouts and then tracking their advancements. The leader also recruits other adults to plan and organize individual activity badge meetings and outings. One of the main roles of the Webelos den leader is to give each scout opportunities to lead and make decisions, both individually and for the den.
Every parent should be expected to lead two of the 20 Webelos activity badges. A den should be able to complete an activity badge each month. The first two or three activity badges should be led by the den leader or assistant den leader as examples to the other parents on what is expected. Having parents actively leading lets the scouts interact with other adults and lets
parents have a sense of ownership of the success of the group. An actively supportive parent is crucial for any scout hoping to attain the Eagle Scout rank since there will be many times when a parent is asked to help out with that boy's progress.
Webelos Den Leader is a registered volunteer BSA position. Every Webelos Den is required to have a registered den leader whose responsibilities are:
- Work directly with other den and pack leaders to ensure that the den is an active and successful part of the pack.
- Plan, prepare for, and conduct den meetings with the assistant den leader and den chief.
- Attend pack leaders' meetings.
- Lead the den at pack meetings and activities.
- Ensure the transition of Webelos scouts to Boy Scouts.