The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.Robert Burns
Well, if you’re doing your part to flatten the curve by sitting on your couch and brainstorming all of the ways you and your Pack can Scout in these difficult times, welcome to the One Hour A Week Club. We’re starting campfires with our Den and Pack meeting plans for kindling, looking for a spot among the dining room table to safely store the Arrow of Light plaques, picking at patch corners to see what could use a new stitch, wearing our uniforms around the house because we’re starting to miss the itchy shorts.
This is weird. It feels like this awesome community we’ve all created is a million miles away. On my family’s evening walk this week, I saw one of my Scout families riding bikes together, and my Scout waved from across the street and said, “Miss Rebekah, I really don’t like social distancing. I just want to give you a high five!” So we gave a high five from opposite sides of the street, and when he rode off I felt a twinge in my heart. As leaders, we need Scouting just as much as these kids. Let’s not get used to the couch potato life and just wait out the virus. Let’s DO OUR BEST to find ways to stay connected and do what we can for the families in our charge.
There are a lot of free, easy-to-use online conferencing tools that are perfectly suited for a Pack meeting. Some host up to 10 attendees, others 100. Some allow you to share files and photos, others don’t. I wrote a quick and easy post about Scouting Tech: Online Conferencing Tools for Virtual Meetings to help break down the options for each of several programs, and how to get started using them.
Of the programs noted in that post, my unit is going to use Zoom for Pack meetings, mainly because we have a large Pack and need to host as many as 100 attendees at one time. It’s also very flexible, easy to use, allows me to share my desktop, add files to chat, and manually control microphones and screen sharing.
There are additional security measures that should be taken to ensure the safety of our Scouts. Please read the Scouting Tech: Online Conferencing Tools for Virtual Meetings post to learn more about the settings that are available to lock-down your meeting and provide the security our Scouting families deserve.
The “Zoom Meeting Settings” (PDF) by Helen Son is another EXCELLENT reference for Zoom-specific settings to help lock down your meetings further.
What Do I Do?
Plan Your Basics
After you choose the right online conferencing tool for your unit, break out those Pack plans you prepared this month and consider what can be converted into a graphic, PowerPoint Presentation, or other file that can be shared with your unit using that conferencing tool. For instance, I created a PowerPoint Presentation with an opening that asks all attendees logging in to mute their microphones, use the “Reactions” button to give me a thumbs up when they’re ready, and say hello to their friends using the chat feature. It also includes our opening ceremony – Pledge of Allegiance, Scout Oath, and Scout Law. I will share my desktop during our meeting and advance through the slides as needed. Keep it simple, make it fun!
Determine a Theme
Consider a quick theme for your digital materials. Our local neighborhoods are all sharing rainbows in their windows, drawn in chalk on their driveways, and hidden around their property so the kids can hunt them on their walks. I decided that rainbows would be the theme of my presentation for that reason, and because they are a beautiful reminder of the hope that comes after a storm. It’s fitting in my eyes, BUT there are a lot of themes that are appropriate right now. How about the Wolf adventure, Germs Alive, which is full of fun opportunities to reinforce that a Scout is Clean. Maybe you decide upon a specific point of the Scout Law each month and would prefer to use a one of the full meeting plans provided by Scouting.org (for us, March is obedient, which is a great opportunity to remind Scouts about listening to mom and dad).
Make It Interactive
A normal Pack meeting is boisterous and fun, so why wouldn’t a virtual meeting be? Zoom has tools available that make any meeting interactive, like the chat feature, reactions, and of course the ability to speak and be seen! There are a lot of great ideas at the Scouts.org/uk/activities site (793 to be exact) that can easily be converted into an interactive activity for your unit. How about a knot-tying challenge, use the chat function to have Scouts ask you 20 questions, play camp charades and have Scouts guess in the chat, demonstrate how to properly wash your hands, or go around and have Scouts each tell a joke using their microphone and webcam. Just like your Pack, ours is full of talent! Invite Scouts to share their gifts with the Pack. For instance, one of my AOLs is working on his Maestro adventure and will be serenading us with a guitar piece.
Give Credit Where It’s Due
You won’t have a traditional awards ceremony in a virtual meeting, but it’s still important to acknowledge the Scouts who have earned loops, pins, and special awards in the last month. Create slides in your PowerPoint Presentation for each den that prompts individual leaders to give a brief update to their Scouts, then another that notes who has earned what adventure. Advancement is, of course, one of the Methods and Aims of Scouting, and a Scout deserves to see that their efforts are noted and appreciated. Physical awards will have to wait until we’re able to meet again in person, but until then we’ll do our best!
Challenge Your Scouts
It’s more important than ever to keep our Scouts interested and engaged, and social distancing allows us an opportunity to show just how flexible this program is. Challenge your Scouts to complete requirements at home, let parents know that they can submit advancement for approval through ScoutBook, and offer prizes to Scouts who commit to making the most of their time at home. I created a rank-specific Cubmaster Challenge, offering 3 to 4 adventures for each rank, and including tips and resources to help them out along the way. My post Cub Scout Activities: Adventuring from Home Rank Challenges has shared links to the FREE challenge docs as well as a running list of virtual resources that support the Scouting program.
Keep It Short and Sweet
A free Zoom membership allows up to 100 attendees, and 40 minutes of meeting time. Honestly, it’s hard enough getting Scouts to hang in there for a full hour in person… 40 minutes should be more than enough time to complete a virtual meeting.
Keep it positive; these kids are getting bombarded by heavy, upsetting information from all sides. This should be a safe place for upbeat conversation, celebration, and camaraderie. There’s absolutely nothing you can add to this global conversation in your Pack meeting that these families haven’t already heard a trillion times over. A Scout is Clean, so please feel free to share some hand-washing tips or to joke and see who’s brushing their teeth these days, but steer clear of pointing out how isolated we all are right now.
Make it about community and connection, and it will be a Pack meeting to remember!
Many of our local neighborhoods have started hiding rainbows on their property in a show of solidarity, creating a scavenger hunt for the kids as they go out on their daily family walks. Because they’re a sign of hope at the end of a difficult time – rainbows only appear after the rain, right – I went with a rainbow theme for my Pack meeting presentation. You are more than welcome to use my template for your own meeting. Google Docs likes to convert special fonts to Arial, but my original uses the Burbank Big Condensed Bold (Fortnite) free font.
Scout-Themed Virtual Backgrounds
If you’re looking to switch things up in your next Zoom meeting, and hide the piles of Scout Stuff stacked up in your room, consider virtual backgrounds. I’m sure you’ve had Scouts floating in space or enjoying a tropical vacation in recent meetings. I’ve made a whole bunch of great Scouting-related backgrounds to suit any type of unit and meeting. Not only are Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA covered, but also Sea Scouts, Venturing, Wood Badge, Order of the Arrow, National Youth Leadership Training, Fundraising, and Girl Scouts USA. The collection grows every day, so keep it bookmarked, check in often, and share it with your Scouting friends. Scouting Tech: Free Cub Scout and Scouts BSA Backgrounds for Virtual Meetings.
Zoom Breakout Room Games
My oldest son is working to complete his Eagle and has the special opportunity to lead the newest Scouts (recent AOL graduates) in earning their Scout Rank virtually. He’s leaned heavily on the 30 Day Rank Challenge posted by the Heart of America Council, and over the last few weeks has learned a lot about the different tools available using Zoom conferencing. Despite the flood of creativity and generosity online, he was struggling to find a fun game that Scouts could play virtually. It wasn’t until I was invited to attend a Girl Talk, Inc. Zoom chapter meeting hosted by two dear friends that the light bulbs started going off. They were utilizing breakout rooms to get the girls in their chapter to work together to solve survival situations. It was brilliant, fun, and fostered team work. In the week that followed, my son and I worked to figure out how to best use those breakout rooms and tested it out on his patrol. Learn more at Scouting Tech: Using Zoom Breakout Rooms for Survival Situation Games.
Look Wider Still – Cubmaster’s Minute
I have the privilege of being a part of countless Scouting groups, and something stands out now more than ever. We are a true community. We care about one another, we care about the Scouts collective, and we are all doing our best to keep our heads above the water and this program on its track. We are a lot of things, but we aren’t perfect. We don’t have endless energy or resources. We have jobs, families, and a lot on our minds and hearts. Please continue to lean on each other, to reach out when you need help, and to share when you can. It seems like absolutely everything has changed in the last two weeks, not the least of which is humanity’s willingness to serve. There will be a rainbow at the end of all this, we just need to remember to keep an eye on the sky!
Stay healthy and be well!
Yours in Scouting,