Look wide, and even when you think you are looking wide – look wider still.Lord Robert Baden-Powell
I firmly believe that there are opportunities within the existing Scouting program that, no matter how impeccably mapped out, can always use a little injection of fun or maybe a slightly different perspective. Most of us are doing this den leadership thing alongside of raising children, full-time jobs, various extracurricular commitments, and very little free time. Then someone comes along and puts a good idea out there that you absolutely can’t refuse, and you’re suddenly sucked into a project of epic proportions that you did not sign-up for. It’s obnoxious, and get it.
I do want to share a good idea with you, but I also want to make it easy on your paper-thin schedule! So where to start?
Cub Scout Knots
Knot-tying is an essential Scouting skill that comes up in numerous adventures and is either blasted through, ignored entirely, or practiced so infrequently that Scouts are moving up into Troops without a solid understanding of how or when they work.
Here’s a quick overview of knots in the program.
The Types of Knots Covered in the Cub Scouting Program
- Overhand Knot
- Square Knot
- Two Half Hitches
- Taut-Line Hitch
Cub Scout Adventures with Knot Tying Requirements
- WOLF Call of the Wild Adventure, Requirement 5: Show how to tie an overhand knot and a square knot.
- BEAR Bear Necessities Adventure, Requirement 5: Demonstrate how to tie two half hitches and explain what the hitch is used for.
- ARROW OF LIGHT Outdoorsman Adventure, Requirements A5 and B3: Show how to tie a bowline. Explain when this knot should be used and why.
- ARROW OF LIGHT Scouting Adventure, Requirement 5a: Show how to tie a square knot, two half hitches, and a taut-line hitch. Explain how each knot is used.
How To Teach Knot Tying
Most Cub underclassmen will take a piece of paracord and, no matter how well you fused the end, relieve the sheath of its inner strands in short order. If they don’t unravel it, they will tie it into the biggest potato knot you’ve ever seen, and sometimes even the most patient of leaders will give up on untying it over and over and… you get it.
There are a lot of INCREDIBLE resources available that teach knot tying in a variety of ways. Here are a few of my favorites:
- AnimatedKnots.com is a great online resources for just about any knot you can think of, and even has a section dedicated to Scouting. The best part is that it shows you how each knot is accomplished and how it is used.
- The Knots 3D app is an essential field tool that I’ve personally used time and again. The instructional animations allow you to work at your own speed and view each knot from almost any angle. It’s Scouting Knot section includes the six knots mentioned above and many others. Plus it’s available on iPhone or Android.
- Scouting Magazine online has a great series of videos explaining how to tie each of the Scout Knots.
Knot Ninjas Program
At the suggestion of my District Roundtable Commissioner, I also instituted the Knot Ninjas program into my Webelos program that I’ve had relatively good luck with. The Knot Ninjas program teaches Scouts how to tie the individual knots through friendly competition and rewards. Each Scout was given a length of paracord to keep at all times, a knot tying guide, and a small leather cord to hang from the button of their left shirt pocket. As a Scout learned each knot, they could challenge a friend or a member of the leadership team to a tie-off! If they demonstrated a solid understanding of the knot, its purpose and uses, they would receive a colored bead for their leather cord.
I’ve found that my Scouts are more likely to use their gathering time to practice knots if they have something that makes the process fun and interesting, and helps small hands with some difficult steps. I poked around the Internet for alternatives to lengths of paracord and found knot boards that were meant for kids, easy to store, and relatively easy to make. After pulling together what I had on hand and making a few modifications, I built 19 boards that are going strong after 3 years of fairly regular use at both den meetings and on camping trips.
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own knot boards.
- Trade Quest Letter Size Clipboard (Pack of 30) OR
- Trade Quest Letter Size Clipboard (Pack of 12)
- 1/2″ dowel rods, approximately 6″ long
- 0.75″ wooden cubes
- 550 Paracord, 50 or 100 foot lengths (each board includes 3 total 18″ lengths of paracord)
- Braided Mason Line in contrasting colors (I used Neon Orange and White, 250 foot rolls)
- Gorilla Wood Glue stands up to Scouts
- #17 x1″ Wire Nails (two for each board)
- Hot glue gun and sticks
- Permanent marker
- Knot Board Template PDF
- Knot Ninjas PDF with Knot Instructions
- Gather your materials and print the Knot Board Template PDF.
- Using a permanent marker, align the Knot Board Template to the back of your clipboard and mark the circles where you will drill. Note that the three larger circles are for your 550 paracord. Note that in my pictures I aligned the Knot Board Template to the front of my clipboards and have regretted it ever since. If you make the back of your clipboards the front of your knot board, you can then clip the knot instructions to the back of your boards for storage.
- Drill the holes in your clipboard and sand down.
- Starting at the top left “overhand” knot and working below it to the “square” knot, feed short lengths of contrasting braided mason line through your clipboard and melt the end, adhering it to the board as pictured in the gallery above. A small dot of hot glue over the melted end will ensure it is securely attached to the board and will survive lots of tugs and pulls.
- Repeat step 4 with one single color length of braided mason line, approximately 6″ long, for the “bowline” knot.
- Repeat step 4 with two 6″ lengths of one single color braided mason line for both the “taught-line hitch” and “half hitch” knots.
- Cut three 18″ lengths of paracord and secure them to the bottom section of the board by feeding them through your pre-drilled holes, and melting the ends to the board as you have with the mason line. A little hot glue over the melted ends will keep them securely attached.
- Apply a wooden craft cube to the board with wood glue, allow for it to dry approximately 20 minutes before flipping over your board and tapping a nail through the back and into the craft cube. Make sure you are placing the cube below your “half hitch” knot mason line so it doesn’t interfere when you tie the knot later.
- Apply the wooden dowel to the front of your board, on top of the wooden cube, with wood glue and allow for it to dry approximately 20 minutes before tapping a nail through the dowel and into the wooden cube.
- Begin tying your sample knots and using a small amount of hot glue to hold them in place. Cut off any excess mason line. Fuse the ends with a lighter to keep them from fraying.
- Fuse the ends of your paracord with a lighter to keep them from fraying.
- Print a copy of the Knot Ninjas Program with Knot Instructions for each board and secure them under the clipboard clip.
Fun with a Purpose is what this whole Scouting thing is all about, so when my Webelos were learning how to tie a Bowline, I scoured the web for game suggestions. We found Cannibal Rescue and our gathering turned into almost 30 minutes of knot tying fun! And guess what? My Webs can tie a bowline in their sleep.
CANNIBAL RESCUE – Bowline Knot Practice
Knot Ninjas | Outdoorsman A4 or B3
Materials: 30 to 50-foot x 1/4 to 3/8-inch manila or braided nylon for each patrol
- The patrols line up in relay formation behind a line.
- A second line is marked out 20 to 30 feet away, parallel to the first.
- The first Scout in each patrol is given a rope, and the following story is related: “You are fleeing from cannibals and have reached the bank of a wide river.
- Only one Scout in each patrol can swim. The rest of the patrol must be “pulled” across with the help of a rope.”
- On signal, the first Scout in each patrol “swims” (runs) with the rope to the other “shore” (second line) and throws one end of the rope back across the “river” to the second Scout in line.
- The second Scout ties a bowline around his waist and is figuratively pulled across to the other shore by the first Scout.
- Then the second Scout unties the rope, throws it to the next Scout in line, and so on. This continues until the whole patrol is safely across.
Note: Scouts must wait until the rope is thrown far and accurately enough for them to grab it, without entering the “river”.
Scoring: The first patrol to get all of its members across the river with correctly tied bowlines wins.
How I Use and Store These Boards
Once you’ve put together 20 or so knot boards, it becomes apparent that you’ll need a place to store them. The summer before my Den started working on their Webelos I adventures, I put together patrol totes that were entrusted to each new patrol leader. Each tote holds things like a binder full of adventure materials, a first aid kit, writing supplies, glue and tape, scissors, their patrol flag, and their own knot boards. It’s up to them throughout the Year in Scouting to house and maintain the totes and everything inside of them. Each summer I take back the totes and perform my own maintenance on the gear inside, including the knot boards. I go in depth about those patrol totes in my post “Scouting: Introducing Webelos to the Patrol Method“.
So, How’d You Do?
Did you try any of my knot tying suggestions or make your own knot boards? Tell me all about it! I want to hear all about what you thought of the instructions, how they can be improved, and what your Scouts thought of them.
Yours in Scouting,
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