A Den is a small group of boys you will be with for the next five years or so. Ideally a den consists of 6 – 8 boys, each with an adult partner. You will have a leader and maybe an assistant leader (you can decide these things among yourselves) and will probably meet a couple of times a month. As a Den, you work your way through the Cub Scout program, progressing from Tigers to Wolves to Bears to Webelos (Don’t ask, you’ll find out). On the way, you will have a lot of fun together and learn a lot of great stuff. The boys really start to bond with each other, and often form friendships that transgress over the years because the boys in a den stay together throughout Cub Scouts whereas the friendships they make in grade school or on sporting teams routinely change. More often than not, the families of the cub scouts also become friends as they share adventures, camp-outs, build birdhouses and socialize together.
In the Tiger Cub year, the scout and the adult partner are to attend meetings and outings together. It is best to involve the parents in the leading, for example, letting each of them run a meeting or an outing. Also, many dens take up a collection to cover costs of crafts, supplies and outings but can be worked out however your den decides.
Den Meeting Locations
There are many locations to have your den meetings. In the past, some have taken place in homes (taking turns, of course), churches (for example, All Saints, First Presbyterian in Stirling), the American Legion Hall (they don’t charge the usual fee for scout meetings, ph 604-5411), Gillette School and Millington School. For those meetings being held outside the home, be sure to find out the reservation procedure.
For Millington and Gillette Schools: there is a form that needs to be filled out in order to use one of their rooms and faxed or emailed to Jamie Rewick, firstname.lastname@example.org at the Board of Education. The fax number is right on the form. Once it is approved, you will receive the signed form back via US Mail. I would recommend that when you fax the form in for approval you follow up with an email to Jamie. Also ask her to send you an email when it’s approved as the US mail is a bit slow at times. You can also make an appointment with her and fill out the form then. Call her around the 1st or 2nd week of school. Please see the Handout Section for the form.
All Saints Church: please contact All Saints at 908-647-0067 to book the top floor for your meetings. FYI, this room gets booked very quickly.
The Pack is the larger group to which all our dens belong. The Cub Scout pack belongs to a church, a school, or some other group of people in your community or neighborhood. This group makes sure your pack has good adult leaders, a place to meet, and exciting things to do. In our case, we are Pack 56 and we currently have 15 dens, which equates to around 110 boys. Pack 56 is a very healthy, vital pack, and with you as a part of it, we hope to keep it that way. The pack generally meets once a month, either in the All-Purpose Room at Millington School, or on location for special Pack events (more on that later). The Pack 56 website, www.pack56.org, has the pack schedule, coming events, leaders’ meetings and much more. Also, individual dens may use it for their schedules and events.
The District and Council
Bigger still than the pack is the District and the Council, which are made up of all the packs in a loose geographical area. We belong to the Watchung Mountain District of the Patriot’s Path Council—www.ppbsa.org. Amongst other things, the Patriot’s Path offers some activities you might like to participate in such as the Council’s Pinewood Derby, summer camp programs (wonderful week long day and residential camps) and also provides training and leadership programs. The Council also regulates certain activities and arranges insurance for the pack. The Council website, www.ppbsa.org, has essential information for leaders including training schedules.
A leader or representative from each den must attend. They are held once a month at All Saint’s Church at 7:30 pm (see the pack website for schedule). At the first Leader’s Meeting ask the Cubmaster for your flag. This will stay with you for the next 5 years. You will use this flag to open all of your meetings.
How to Set Up a Den
You will definitely meet new people and make new friends as you become more involved in Cub Scouting, but in your new Den you may want to be with at least some people you already know and like. Remember, you will be together for the next 5 years, and not always under ideal physical conditions (in future years you may end up sharing a tent or a canoe!) Also, as the boys get older, you may want or need to carpool (in the Tiger year, each Tiger should always be accompanied by his adult partner), so geography may be important to you.
Think about the kinds of people you will be comfortable with hiking through the Swamp or pitching your tent next to. Talk to the families you know to see if they see things the way you do. The chances are that the boys will make friends with whomever they end up with, but you really need to be sure that the parents can get along too.
Also think about when you would like to meet. Some dens meet after school (sometimes even at the school), and this often works well for dens where the adult partners are mostly stay-at-home moms. After-dinner dens tend to be a better option when the dads also want to be involved.
You should also think about where you plan to meet. Some dens meet in each other’s houses, but if you can find a space at a local church, school or another larger space (some dens even meet at firehouses), that might be better, especially if some families need to bring siblings to meetings. Remember, the boys will be getting bigger and louder!
If you can form a group of 6-8 like-minded families and think you can agree on the day/time you want to meet, wonderful, you’re a den! Send all your paperwork together if you can or at least indicate clearly the group you want to be with and we’ll try and make it happen. Otherwise, fill out your forms, and indicate clearly when you need to meet – i.e. after-school or after-dinner. Also indicate any people you would prefer to be with. We cannot guarantee who you will be placed in a den with, but we will try very hard to try to put you with at least someone on your list. If you have 2 or 3 like-minded families, but not enough for a complete den, by all means send those forms in together and we will try to keep you together.
Very important, we need to know your willingness/comfort level with being a Den Leader or Assistant Leader. The pack does not appoint leaders; each den needs to figure out its own leadership. Don’t worry though; we have lots of information, monthly leaders meetings where ideas are shared, plus help and training to make the job a lot less daunting. And remember, you don’t have to go-it-alone. All members of the den should be contributing with ideas and plans for meetings and activities. A leader really is more of a co-coordinator in some ways. The only extra thing you will need to do is to complete an initial Leader Training course.
Once you have been placed in a Den, you can start to get to know each other. If you are a den leader, you might want to try to get everyone together for some kind of informal Den social before the craziness of back-to-school begins. At the least, everyone should make contact by phone or e-mail to set up a chain. The Den Leader should be the co-coordinator for much of your den’s activities, but it is a group effort. Everyone’s input is valid and indeed vital, and everyone in the Den should be willing to play an active role when necessary or when asked. If you want to invite your new Den over for a barbecue or a picnic, go ahead!
A Typical Den Meeting
These are suggestions only. Feel free to use your own ideas and experiment to find out what works for your den. Leaders will receive additional materials from the pack and from Leader Training, which can help with ideas for activities. All siblings are always welcome at Den meetings and Pack meetings.
1. Preparation. The more you do ahead of time the smoother the meeting is likely to go. Gather all the materials you’ll need. Make sure you have a U.S. flag for the opening ceremony (this will be given to you at the first leader’s meeting). Have a game/craft ready for when the boys arrive. We have used Simon Says on a number of occasions and the boys love it. A box of Legos also works well. The Enchanted Learning website also has great mazes, word searches, coloring pages etc. you can use as busy work until all the boys arrive. I have used many of the materials to compliment the theme of the den meeting. There is a small yearly fee to subscribe, but I found that it was well worth it.
2. As the boys arrive, direct them to the game/activity to keep them occupied until you are ready to begin the meeting.
3. Opening Ceremony – the official start of the meeting. Have the boys take turns being flag bearers. (We had all the boys’ names in a hat and chose a new boy for each meeting to give everyone a fair turn). At this time the boys can recite the Pledge of Allegiance along with the Tiger Cub motto, the Cub Scout promise and the Law of the Pack. (You can put the Cub Scout promise and the Law of the Pack on 1 sheet of oak tag for easy reading. Each one goes on one side of the oak tag.)
4. Activities. These will vary according to what you want to achieve. Ideally you will do one activity that would contribute to one of the Requirements or Electives from your Handbook. In addition, you might also do something appropriate to the time of year. For example, in October you might want to work on creating decorations to be used at Hicks Tract for Spooky Trail. The Den Resource Guide (http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/CubScouts/Leaders/DenLeaderResources/DenandPackMeetingResourceGuide.aspx) is also full of ideas for games and activities linked to a monthly theme.
5. Clean up and depart! Remember we are Scouts― wherever we go, we leave no trace!
In some dens, the leaders schedule and coordinate the entire meeting, while in others, Cubs and their adult partners take turns to lead an activity, craft or game. You can discuss as a den how to divide responsibilities and duties, but no leader should feel obliged to do everything by themselves. Remember, it is a group effort and everyone should contribute their time, talents and ideas.
What to Expect at the First Pack Meeting
The first pack meeting can be a bit of an ordeal if you don’t know what to expect. The Millington School Gym will be full of seemingly hundreds of excited little boys, some of whom may not have seen their fellow Den members for some time. There will also be assorted parents and siblings adding to the noise level. Some people will be trying to complete their registration. Some new dens may be trying to get to know each other.
Our Cub Master does a great job of settling the boys down, explaining what everyone needs to do and keeping things moving along, but still, however you slice it, Pack Meetings can be loud.
The purpose of Pack Meetings is two-fold.
- Most times there is an activity for the boys to enjoy as a pack whether it be skits performed by the boys themselves, a display of the boys’ collections or “entertainment” (in the past we’ve had police dogs and their handlers, exotic animals and reptiles, science shows and magicians, as well as the US Coast Guard with their rescue boat.). This where the boys meet other Cub Scouts and get a sense of belonging to a much bigger organization than their own little den.
- It is also a business meeting. At pack meetings, the boys and their parents learn about up-coming events and pack-wide activities. Supplies (like Pinewood Derby and Rain gutter Regatta kits) are handed out and awards may be presented.
At the first Pack Meeting one of the main business components is fundraising, and for the Cub Scouts that means Popcorn. It’s unfortunate that you walk into your first Cub Scout meeting and feel that you are immediately being hit up for money, but there are valid reasons for the timing of it:
- We only have the one fundraiser for the entire year and this is it. Brownies or Girl Scouts work all year round selling cookies, magazines and all sorts of other things, but Cub Scouts just sell popcorn. A lot of it!
- It’s really important that we do a good job because this is our only source of revenue (your registration dues go directly to the Patriot’s Path Council to cover their own and National operating expenses), we need to get the money in the bank as soon as possible so that we can start to spend it as soon as possible!
- Our popcorn revenue pays for/subsidizes all of our pack events. It allows us to buy Pinewood and Rain gutter Regatta kits for every boy in the pack. It pays for all the badges, pins, beads and belt loops the pack awards to the boys. It also greatly subsidizes our Blue and Gold dinner (this year adults paid just $13 and children $8 for a three-course dinner served to them at the North Maple Inn).
As our newest members, you will not be expected to be our best sellers, but you may find that your Tiger enjoys the experience every bit as much as some of the older boys. Take the popcorn kit home with you and decide on your own comfort level for this year. If you just want to buy a box or two for yourselves this year, that’s fine. But be warned, your Tiger may have other ideas once he sees how much fun the Show and Sell can be and how easy it is to earn fun prizes.