Making Stronger Units: Cub Den Edition

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Around 2010, Boy Scouts of America examined what new packs and troops had in common and what distinguished those healthy ones from packs and troop that died quickly. One conclusion was that there were three people dedicated to the health of the new unit: the chartered organization representative, the unit committee chair, and the unit leader (e.g., Cubmaster or Scoutmaster). These key 3 people consistently worked well together toward a common vision.

BSA subsequently examined all levels of scouting to see how these lessons learned could be applied. BSA rolled out the idea of a Key 3 at every level of scouting.

For a Cub Scout Pack, the Key 3 is identified as the Chartered Org Rep, the Pack Chair, and the Cubmaster. They are what make the Pack function (but, as we used to say until May 31, 2015, “The Cub makes the Pack go.”)

So is there a Key 3 in a Cub Scout Den? According to official BSA literature, I have not seen that official designation yet (but I have not read all the new material cover to cover yet).

But, if we were looking for such a designation, what would be looking for?

In the Pack Key 3, the Chartered Org Rep handles obtaining facilities and communicates with the Chartering Organization (e.g., school, PTO, church, etc.). The Pack Chair handles planning and parents. The Cubmaster handles program delivery to the boys by leading meetings, pack activities, and pack campouts.

Using that model, what parallels are there in a Den to what we see in a Pack?

The Den Mother often feels like she has to provide the room at her house, plan the program, talk to the parents, and deliver the program. Is this the correct answer? Maybe not.

The Den Mother certainly may be responsible for offering the room, if the meeting is at her house. She definitely needs to communicate with the parents. Does she need to plan the program and deliver it?

There are two positions in Cub Scouts that are underused. The Den Chief and the Denner. We have looked at a Denner before.

A Den Chief is a Boy Scout who is fulfilling his rank requirement for Star rank or above by serving in a Cub Scout Den. His job is to serve as the Den Mother’s assistant and mentor to the Cubs and the Denner. For many Boy Scouts, Den Chief is their first role of responsibility. They need coaching. Once coached for a couple meetings, the Den Chief usually knows his job with a Denner and takes over the job of coaching each successive Denner.

The Denner is the temporary senior Cub Scout in the Den. He leads the other boys with advice and guidance of the Den Chief and the Den Mother. Good Dens have the Denner lead discussions about what the Cubs want to plan to do and help deliver that plan. Denners do not have much in leadership experience so they will need constant coaching.

Many Den Leaders do not like using Den Chiefs or Denners because it prevents the operation of a smooth meeting. Our goal in scouting is not to have smooth meetings without drama. It is to teach citizenship and responsibility through experiences. A successful meeting is not necessarily a smooth meeting. A successful Den Meeting has a clear chance for the Den Chief and Denner to talk to the Den Mother for 2-3 minutes before the meeting about the plan. Then before a new task, the Den mother reminds the Den Chief and Denner what to do for their next task in a matter of 15-30 seconds. There is no expectation that either the Den Chief or the Denner will remember from the before-meeting conversation. The reminders go faster, though, because of the before-meeting conversation. At the end of the meeting, before closing ceremony, the Den Mother coaches the Den Chief and Denner to have a Stop-Start-Continue conversation with the entire Den. This may only take a minute or two — short-attention spans and new concepts, you know.

Getting Den Chiefs can be difficult with the Boy Scouts hectic extracurricular schedules. Even so, don’t skimp on working on building your Den Key 3. You will be astounded by the results in a very short time.


Sad News about “Uncle Mikey” Stalcup

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Update 8/11/2015: a few pictures from yesterday’s funeral for !ike Stalcup.

Update 8/6/2015, 11:00 am: Mike’s funeral visitation is confirmed for Monday, August 10th from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Flanner & Buchanan Broad Ripple, 1305 Broad Ripple Avenue, Indianapolis 46220. Services at the same location at 3 p.m. A celebration of life at Camp Belzer at 4 p.m. (Indy Star obituary scheduled for Sunday.)

Scouts and Scouters attending should consider wearing Class “A” uniforms. Members of camp staff may choose to wear their camp uniforms.

To understand the magnitude of the loss to North Star District and the Crossroads of America Council, just review Uncle Mikey’s own autobiographical scouting resume. Just a few highlights, among many:

  1. Eagle Scout with Bronze Palms, Eagle Board of Review October 23, 1954 with Troop 82 in Indianapolis according to the National Eagle Scout Association database.
  2. Assistant Scoutmaster beginning in 1961 with Troop 82 of North Star District and many other adult leadership positions through 1978
  3. Silver Beaver Award (highest award for service to Council)
  4. Continuous tenure as member at large of the Crossroads of America Council since 1982 until his death
  5. Western Section of National Council Training staff for 32 courses
  6. Firecrafter Minisino and member of the Order of High Bark
  7. Order of the Arrow Brotherhood member
  8. Doctor of Scouting Science
  9. Master of Commissioner Science
  10. Wood Badge Staff
  11. Unofficial Council Historian since 2000
  12. North Star District Commissioner or Staff for 18 years
  13. North Star District Committee for approximately 25 years

Update 8/3/2015, 11:00 am: Mike Stalcup passed away Monday night at 8 p.m. May he rest in peace.

4:14 pm: Sandi Hobbs at Council office has spoken to Nancy Stalcup. Plans are not finalized yet, but Nancy hopes visitation and viewing will be Monday, August 10, 2015 at 1 pm at Flanner & Buchanan Broad Ripple with the service immediately thereafter. The wake will be at Camp Belzer.

Original post: Mike Stalcup, known to many of us as “Uncle Mikey”, blacked out and fell on Saturday, August 1st. He is in a coma at St. Vincent’s Hospital 86th Street. An aneurism is suspected. The family has been called to the hospital.
Mike, most recently of Troop 56 and Pack 830, has been a long time volunteer for North Star District and Crossroads of America Council volunteer.

Stalcup collage

“Uncle Mikey” Stalcup

District Publishes Eagle Board Guidebook; Eagle Project Coordinator News

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Long-time and recurring Eagle Board of Review Coordinator Jerry Simon has summarized his years of experience in one guidebook. Jerry has written some of the material. He has also used some of the material written by his immediate predecessor as the then-titled Eagle Coordinator Charlie Meyer, a life-long North Star Scout and Scouter.

Jerry’s experience has taught him that new scoutmasters and all Eagle candidates are slightly bewildered about the Eagle application process. He has reduced the process down to a how-to guide for our district.

Read the rest of this entry »

Back to School Night: 28 Days and Counting

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Once you get your new adults enrolled as scouters, they will need training. They are expected to complete Fast Start position specific online training within 48 hours of registration.

Remember Council accepts no registrations accepts without a Youth Protection Training certificate of course completion being stapled to the adult application. This is available online at or can be offered in person using a video available from the Scout Service Center or District Commissioner Jeff Heck at

District is working on its training schedule. Online training is available at for most positions. Council already has some in-person training scheduled. Cub position-specific training (e.g., Cubmaster, Pack Trainer, Den Leader, etc.) will be offered at the Scout Service Center on the

  1. evening of Tuesday, August 4th,
  2. evening of Wednesday, August 12th,
  3. evening of Tuesday, September 1st,
  4. evening of Tuesday, September 8th,
  5. evening of Tuesday, September 22nd,
  6. evening of Tuesday, October 6th,
  7. evening of Tuesday, October 13th,
  8. evening of Tuesday, November 3rd, and
  9. evening of Wednesday, November 18th.

BALOO training, which is required for Pack overnights, will be offered in conjunction with boy scouts Introduction to Outdoor Leadership skills on Saturday, September 12 from 9 am to 5 pm at the Scout Service Center. Every pack must have one person trained in this for a pack overnight campout. This session is highly recommended because future cub leaders who plan on serving as assistant scoutmasters in the future can obtain the necessary training for both at one event. These trainings never expire, so they are “one and done.”

Popcorn Kickoff August 8th

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Popcorn Kickoff training is August 8th at St Alphonsius Catholic Church at 1870 West Oak Street, Zionsville, IN 46077. (Parking is easiest for most meetings at the church if you enter campus from the west entrance off of 950 East/Bentley Rd, because of traffic flow design of the parking lot. (Entering from the south entrance would require you to drive around the north end of the sanctuary to get the closest parking space.)St Al's campus

Your unit should send two adults to training that day. One should be your Popcorn Kernel.St Al's in Zionsville

You can register to attend at at this link.

Back to School Night: 29 Days to Go

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At Back to School Night, new parents will be looking to answer the following questions:

  1. How much does Cub Scouts cost for the year?
  2. How does it fit with the family calendar?
  3. Does the Pack have a vision for its success?

To be able to answer these questions, your Pack Committee needs to be able to deliver 3 key documents to the prospective Cub parents:

  1. A document telling the parent how the program is paid for. This could be a budget for out of pocket expenses in neighborhoods with well-to-do families. This is more likely to be a statement of costs for each Cub and the role popcorn sales is used to defer the costs. This could be a statement describing how financial assistance is offered to families who need it. Your Unit Commissioner should be able to get you guidance for these items.
  2. A year-long calendar of Pack events. The dens should be meeting in early August to discuss with their den leaders what they would like to see the Pack to do. The den leaders should report those results for a mid-August Pack Committee meeting to schedule the year. The results should be listed on one sheet of paper and be specific about arrival times and departure times. For example, the North Star District fall family overnight at Indianapolis Motor Speedway should tell families to arrive at the track at a specific time and expect to leave by a specific time. This allows new families to put the event on their family calendars with specificity. This prevents double booking as easily. Successful packs are good at calendaring by habit because they simply say, “We customarily go to . . . in November so that we can . . . .” Newer or struggling packs can duplicate the clarity of vision by simply stating, “We are scheduled to go to . . . in November so that we can . . . .” Prospective families are looking for programs close to home that can clearly describe the program. They will avoid wishy-washy units that only say, “We are thinking about doing something this fall.”
  3. Having a vision statement for how the Pack will perform is very important. This vision statement is not a formalistic business plan gobbledy-gook. It is simply a some concrete goal that can be understood. To be a strong unit, look at the Journey to Excellence criteria for bronze, silver, and gold. Pick a level that makes sense to your Pack. Then tell prospective families what your goal is, “We plan on being a Gold Award Pack.” Most parent don’t know the criteria, and don’t care. They will be interested in knowing that the Pack has a vision of meeting the highest criteria. The statement could be focused on the boys, too. “We plan on each boy making rank by February’s Blue and Gold Banquet and going family overnight camping in the fall, in the spring, and at summer camp. We plan on attending {insert two Council Circuit of Fun Activities}.” The vision of success is contagious and exciting for prospective families.

Remember that part of your programming is already done for you. The Rocket Launch on September 12th and the Pack Family Overnight with District at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October.

New Pack Start Ups Need Troop Help Now

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Currently the District is looking at starting or rebooting 3 to 4 packs in the next 30 days. These packs will need help from veteran scouters to make them work.

Each troop should always have an eye on one or two packs that feed Webelos into the troop. These prospective scouts are the lifeblood of our troops.

All too often, the scoutmaster corps and troop committee members are exhausted of their time and energy after giving to their home unit. They don’t have anymore to give.

One of the best ways for a troop to support a Cub scout pack is identify a past den mother who is not currently active with the troop. Through cooperation with District Commissioner Jeff Heck, she can find a role to assist a pack. She would not be asked to join the pack committee, be a cubmistress, or be a den leader. She would simply be an advisor.

We need four past den mothers who can serve in this role. Please contact Commissioner Jeff Heck at to find out how this can work.

Whoever places the former den mother in a pack has the best chance of recruiting scouts in the future.

District Training for August

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As part of our effort to streamline and improve North Star District, the Commissioners Service and the District Training Committee are offering three trainings in August 2015:

1. Unit Commissioners Training on Monday, August 3rd at St Luke’s UMC.

2. Merit Badge Counselor Training at Roundtable on Thursday, August 6th at Second Presbyterian, 4th Floor.

3. Chartered Organization Representative Training on Monday, August 10th at St. Luke’s UMC.

For more details about times, locations, RSVPs, go to

The Scouting Game

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In my work as District Commissioner, I am often in a position to ask volunteer scouters to complete training. It is very easy for me to sound as if training makes scouting. The joy and enthusiasm for our activities make scouting.

Clarke Green has a weekly blog post where he posts Lord Baden Powell’s bi-weekly magazine columns about scouting. It is interesting to see many of the problems we face today were the same problems that Lord Baden Powell advised his scouters about.

This week’s post is “Scouting – Game, Not Science.” B-P emphasizes that scouter training serves a purpose, but it is too easily misinterpreted. Scouters then become depressed, and the boys catch the depression. He says,

Scouting, as I have said above, is not a science to be solemnly studied, nor is it a collection of doctrines and texts. Nor again is it a military code for drilling discipline into boys and repressing their individuality and initiative. No — it is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.

B-P recommends how to properly view training:

[The Scoutmaster’s] job is to enthuse the boys and to get experts to teach them. The collection of rules is merely to give guiding lines to help them in a difficulty; the training courses are merely to show them the more readily the best ways of applying our methods and of gaining results.

B-P helps enlighten us about the correct point of view for training. It is to teach us the best way of applying the scouting methods to get results. In today’s business language it is the “best practices” of scouting.

Our emphasis at District on training is not for enforcing discipline. It is for giving each pack, troop, or crew the tools to achieve “best practices” as quickly as possible. Skip some of the pain of the School of Hard Knocks. Focus on what works. Shift responsibility for the program’s planning and action to the boys in an age-appropriate manner. We want to train you so that you are more comfortable with scouting.

How much more enjoyable is a sport or a card game if you understand the rules, goals, boundaries, and methods of play? Learn scouting’s “best practices” so that you can focus on the game – not the rules – of scouting.