Sherlock Holmes, the legendary brain-child of one Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has come to mind often as I’ve spent countless hours flipping through rank handbooks and leadership guides to find fun, new ways of presenting adventures to my Scouts. It isn’t common to have that “A-HA!” moment when laying out an adventure plan – invariably, something throws a wrench in the works. More often than not, it’s either time or money, sometimes both. I normally look at my ideal dream plan and ask myself… “what are the basics here and how can you do this on the shoestring budget that is your den account?”
- Will my Scouts feel engaged by this plan?
- What programs and materials do I already have at my disposal?
- Have I looked wide?
Will my Scouts feel engaged by this plan? That’s always at the fore-front of my mind. I have had the honor and pleasure of leading a den of 20 Scouts (the Patrol Method has been a real life-saver) and learned the hard way, early on, that boring Scouts out of their mind is the best possible way to have them drop out of the program or go absolutely bonkers in that precious hour you have with them each week. What programs and materials do I already have at my disposal? First of all, if you aren’t on the Cub Scout Volunteers Facebook Group, RUN, DO NOT WALK. Next, look to free resources like Pinterest and (specifically for Webelos) JJCarter.info to help formulate an engaging plan. Do you have Power Point, Publisher, Word, or any other desktop publishing software you can utilize? Go for it! Have I looked wide? Baden-Powell tell us “Look wide – and when you think you’re looking wide, look wider still.” It’s my personal Scouting mantra and something I hold close to my heart. Scouts need for us to look at the program and give them an experience they won’t forget. Looking wide doesn’t equate to breaking the bank or driving yourself crazy. Sometimes it just means “don’t stand in front of them and read for an hour, they’re not here because they love a good lecture”.
So what does this have to do with mysteries? Those aforementioned rank handbooks are jammed with opportunities to transform your Scouts into forensic scientists, chemists, detectives, and problem-solvers. It’s part of the magic of Scouting, and the best way for them to invest and take pride in their own advancement is to make it fun. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “THE GAME’S AFOOT!”
Cub Scout Mysteries: Adventures
There are 96 total adventures in the Cub Scouting program, Lion to AOL. There are opportunities in each rank for your Scouts to throw on their trench coat, pull out their magnifying glass, and become the detective and/or scientist they were always meant to be. For many of those adventures, the scientific method is a central theme, whether they mention it outright or not. It’s never too early to teach your Scouts about answering questions using the facts. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” ScouterMom.com gives a great, simple explanation of the scientific method. I created a Scientific Method Foldable (PDF) for both 8.5 x 11 and 4 x 6 notebooks (which I link to below).
Lion: Gizmos and Gadgets explores the properties of motion and force. Have your Scouts make a fun popsicle stick catapult and use the scientific method to determine how the amount of force used changes the motion of the item you are launching. A 500 Pack of jumbo craft sticks can be used for countless projects throughout your Scouting career.
Tiger: My Tiger Jungle is all about looking closely to unravel the mysteries of nature. For the 1-foot hike, provide each Scout with their own Scout Notebooks and magnifying glasses, and have them log what flora and fauna they see up close. How about the different kinds of birds that live nearby? Why do they live there? Is there a food source nearby? What could it be?
Tiger: Curiosity, Intrigue, and Magical Mysteries is set-up perfectly for a fun month of make-believe and magic. Requirement 3 teaches Scouts how to create a code and share it with their family, and 5 asks that Scouts conduct a science demonstration that shows how magic works. Raising daVinci is an awesome blog with 10 magic tricks that are really just science.
Tiger: Sky Is The Limit is another Tiger adventure that turns your everyday Scout into an astronomer! You can discuss how the settings on the telescope or binoculars change depending on the person using it and the distance of the star you’re looking at. Looking at the moon, have Scouts consider why there are so many craters and how they got there. I Can Teach My Child has a great science experiment explaining the craters on the moon and planets. Why are some craters larger than others? As they complete this adventure by visiting a planetarium, observatory, science museum, astronomy club, or college/high school astronomy teacher, have them write down several questions about the mysteries of the cosmos. Use your smartphone for good, and download one of these cool Astronomy Apps for iOS and Android, and take your investigation to the next level.
Wolf: Call of the Wild offers up the perfect opportunity to pull out the thinking caps and match animals to their footprints. Create a Scout Notebook for each member of your den that they can customize and use to build an awesome hiking log. Have them fold a copy of this Animal Tracks Checklist from Education.com and glue it into their notebook. A small magnifying glass for each Scout can be left in their hiking pack and used for checking out the smallest of details along the way.
Wolf: Paws on the Path is similar to Call of the Wild in that Scouts are required to go on a 1-mile hike and find interesting things they’ve never seen before, and name two birds, two insects, and/or two other animals that live in the area. Break out the Scout Notebooks and magnifying glasses and get down to the ground to see what tiny creatures are living right there in plain sight.
Wolf: Adventures in Coins is an opportunity to look closely at the coins we use every day. These cool Coin Investigation worksheets are perfect for budding investigators to consider how each coin is different. Again, break out the Scout Notebooks and magnifying glasses to log what you find. Make a balance scale and have Scouts develop a fair test of coin weight using the scientific method.
Wolf: Air of the Wolf has Scouts conducting two different investigations to see how air affects different objects. They suggest making paper airplanes and testing how it flies differently when its shape is altered, making a balloon-powered sled or boat, testing it with differently sized balloons, bouncing a basketball at different air volumes, rolling a tire or ball at different air volumes, and more. Get out those Scout Notebooks and determine a fair test of each investigation. You can even bundle this adventure up with your Raingutter Regatta and earn the Cub Scout National Summertime Pack Award while you’re at it!
Wolf: Code of the Wolf is chock full of mystery! With Codes and Ciphers (PDF), and even a fun opportunity to conduct a Skittles Experiment, this adventure is perfect for Scout Super Sleuths. You guessed it… get out those Scout Notebooks and take notes as you go because this is one sweet loop you won’t want to forget.
Wolf: Finding Your Way is one of those adventures that makes you wonder if the folks at Scouts BSA just LOVE a good mystery. Go on a scavenger hunt using your compass and see what you find. How do you know in which direction you’re heading? What do you see along the way? What’s at the end? Aside from being a valuable skill, learning how to read and use a map can be a lot of fun when you get out there and learn by doing. Take that scavenger hunt up a notch by heading out to a local park and bringing additional technology into the mix… like Google Maps and QR Codes. It’s also a great opportunity to introduce Scouts to Geocaching.
Wolf: Germs Alive! is my FAVORITE of all Cub Scout adventures. Grab your Scout Notebooks and get ready to use the scientific method to uncover the mysteries of those little invisible guys we call germs. Create a fair test of how gross your hands are by growing a mold culture on bread (tortillas work better than bagged bread, which is so full of preservatives that this experiment can take months to see results). This DailyMail.com article, dated December 18, 2019, uncovers the now viral results of a 3rd grade moldy bread experiment.
Wolf: Motor Away is a great opportunity to use the scientific method, and your detective skills, to determine how motion, shape, and force affect the flight of paper airplanes, catapults, boats, and model cars. Take your Scouts outside for this awesome Chemical Reaction Car by Cub Scout Ideas, which uses old Pinewood Derby kits to teach Scouts about the force and motion created by chemical reactions.
Wolf: Spirit of the Water is, without question, one of the most memorable adventures our den tackled. It’s not just that Scouts love to swim! We had everyone gather up into the shallow end of the pool and gave an awesome presentation on water pollution using a demonstration similar to this Earth Day Water Pollution experiment by SupplyMe.com. Sometimes seeing is believing, and for our Scouts, this one turned our swimmers into conservationists on the spot. How do we pollute our water ways? How can we stop water pollution? What can be done once water is polluted?
Bear: Fur, Feathers, and Ferns is another adventure that asks the question… what lives here? I created a Hike Packet (PDF) specifically for this adventure, which can be placed in (you guessed it) their Scout Notebooks. Put your thinking caps on, Scouts. What caused the decline of an animal that has become extinct in the last 100 years and one on the endangered list?
Bear: Forensics, the Bear elective that seems to have been made for Sherlock Holmes himself. This was my first opportunity to really open up the creative flood gates and let loose an entire month of extreme investigation. My Scouts kicked off the month with an introduction to forensics and Case #020518: The Cookie’s Crumbled (PDF), a case file that followed four local bakers to see who it was that stole Jimmy’s top-secret cookie recipe he thought would win the Family Bake-Off. An editable Case #020518: The Cookie’s Crumbled (PPT) case file is also available, so please feel free to customize it as you see fit. Scouts whipped out their handy Scout Notebooks and glued in a copy of the Forensics Powder Analysis (DOC) to help catch the cookie crook, red handed! We also took our detective work to our local Sheriff’s Department, where we learned all about fingerprint analysis. Scouts conducted a Fingerprint Test (PDF) to determine if they had loops, arches, or whorls, and even took home a McGruff Safe Kit to learn more. A printable The Cookie’s Crumbled Scout Packet is available that is the perfect companion piece to The Cookie’s Crumbled case files above. I also have a Leadership Packet to go along. This cool chromatography experiment by Carrots are Orange is made for the den meeting format!
Bear: Robotics turns Scouts into engineers and helps answer the question: how have we made robots in our own human image to complete work? The Robot Hand is the perfect example of this. Bristle Bots are, robot hands down, the most fun we had our Bear year. Engineers? How do these little bots go? How do the vibrations and the bristles help your bots move? What if you added more batteries or used a different type of brush? Grab some 3V coin batteries and foam mounting pads to get started, then follow my lead using my Robotics presentation (PPT).
Bears: Super Science was the adventure that inspired me to create my Scientific Method Foldable (PDF) printable. We broke out our Scout Notebooks and got to work predicting the effects of static electricity on different materials, a sink-or-float investigation on objects like coins and pumpkins, and color-morphing / color-layering experiments. Here’s a Scientific Method and Experiments (PDF) document I created specifically for this adventure. So many mysteries and only a month to solve them!
Webelos / AOL: Adventures in Science is the perfect recap of fair tests, the scientific method, and never ending your quest for knowledge. This one is absolutely bursting at the seams with mystery and adventure, and my Scouts were truly excited to tackle it, Scout Notebooks in hand! By the time they’ve hit the fifth grade, most of this is old news, which is why it’s important to make it fun. I created a Fair Test and Variables (PDF) packet that briefly reviewed what we’ve discussed numerous times as a Den and at school. It includes the profiles of three Scout scientists and an overview of what was to come. In the spirit of NOT reinventing the wheel, I admit that I relied heavily on Cub Scout Ideas to help me out with most of this adventure, specifically the circuits and paper rocket launcher. Their tutorials simply cannot be beat! To complete your circuits like the real scientists you are, you’ll need to pick-up 3V coin batteries, LED diode bulbs, and copper foil tape. I made mounting boards by cutting thin cereal boxes into 5 x 5 squares… just make sure Scouts use the brown side of the cardboard and not the printed side. I purchased the rocket launcher materials at Home Depot using the list on the Cub Scout Ideas tutorial linked above. My word does that thing work! We completed the adventure by conducting the famous Coke and Mentos experiment every Scout dreams of conducting, using this Secrets of the Coke and Mentos Fountain info-graphic by CompoundChem.com as our guide for planning our fair test. A Scout Is Thrifty… we completed the Coke and Mentos experiment before we launched our rockets, and used the empty 2L bottles for our launching mechanism. Visit my post entitled “Webelos/AOL Adventures to Complete At Home” for free online resources to help complete Adventures in Science virtually. Check out my post “Cub Scout Adventures: Webelos & AOL Elective, Adventures in Science” for meeting plans, free downloads, and tips for earning this loop in-person or virtually.
Scouting is all about STEM, and what’s STEM exploration but one gigantic and fun science experiment? Where that wheel reinvention mentioned earlier might be the perfect exercise in scientific mysteries, it’s certainly not one this busy den leader wants to undertake in that one-hour per week I’m allotted. Instead, I lean on the pros. Scouting Magazine published an entire article, STEM In A Box, to help us weary leaders plan exciting and engaging activities that help your Scouts stay interested in your meeting plans so they can leave with new tools in their learning arsenal. Reach out to your District to find out who your local NOVA Counselors are and visit the Cub Scout Nova Awards page on Scouting.org to learn more about the award and the individual modules you can complete to earn it.
I mentioned them countless times above, but sometimes you just need to see them in a short, tidy list.
- Scientific Method Foldable (PDF) for both 8.5 x 11 and 4 x 6 notebooks
- Scout Notebooks
- Magnifying glasses
- Safety Goggles
Need help planning your virtual den meetings all year long?
I’ve created a series of Google Slides that can be shared via your favorite virtual meeting program.
It’s not just the science-themed adventures that leave room for creativity, dear den leader. Look at every adventure, big or small, as an opportunity to look wider still and do a little bit more for your Scouts. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to catch their attention and help them to learn by doing. We’re not just here to mark off completions in ScoutBook, we’re here to inspire the Scouts in our care to do a little more, be a little more, and have a little more curiosity about the world around them. You’ve got this!
Yours in Scouting,
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