2016-09-09 / Front Page

Kennebunk Cub Scouts pilot new program

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Kennebunk Cub Scout Pack 302 is show in one of its more recent public outings, carrying the colors alongside West Kennebunk Boy Scout Troop 304 in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade. Under a new pilot program being launched this month, next year’s scouting contingent could include Lion Cubs as young as 5 years old. (Duke Harrington file photo) Kennebunk Cub Scout Pack 302 is show in one of its more recent public outings, carrying the colors alongside West Kennebunk Boy Scout Troop 304 in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade. Under a new pilot program being launched this month, next year’s scouting contingent could include Lion Cubs as young as 5 years old. (Duke Harrington file photo) KENNEBUNK — When Kennebunk Cub Scout Pack 302 holds its annual recruitment drive next week it’ll finally be able to do something parents have been requesting for years, take on members as young as 5 years old.

“Every year, parents bring their kindergarten aged boys and we’ve had to tell them, we’re sorry, we can’t take anyone younger than 7, essentially first-graders,” said former scoutmaster and current pack committee member Bob Madore.

But this year, for the first time, kindergarten kids can join up under a new Lion Cub program being piloted by Pack 302. Because the Kennebunk Pack is one of only three in Maine offering the new introductory scouting level this year — the others are Pack 216 in Bangor and Pack 218 in Raymond — Scoutmaster Alex Peacock says it will accept members living anywhere in York County.

“If anybody is willing to come out from anywhere in the area, we’d be happy to have them,” Peacock said. “It’s a great age to get involved and get started early for boys and their parents on learning how scouting works and if it’s for them.”

The program reaches Kennebunk after being run as a test in just four local scouting councils nationwide over the past five years.

“Research shows that a child’s development accelerates at age 4 and 5 — about the time these youngsters begin their formal education in kindergarten,” wrote Bryan Wendell, senior editor of the Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines, in a February article explaining the reasons for launching the new program

“That’s also the time when families start looking for after-school activities for their children. While 5-year-olds could join a soccer team or karate studio, they couldn’t yet join scouting.”

As with all scouting levels, Lion Cub members will place a “very large emphasis” on outdoors events and physical activity, Peacock said, although there also is a large dose of arts and crafts appropriate to the age level.

Unlike other scouting levels, Lions will not work toward merit badges. Instead, they’ll get immediate recognition via stickers as they complete each learning module, earning their Lion badge after five of 12 “adventures” are completed. The guided adventures include activities titled, “Animal Kingdom,” “Gizmos and Gadgets,” “I’ll Do It Myself,” and others, along with one most 5-year-old boys are sure to enjoy, “Build It Up, Knock It Down.”

The actual belt loops and other paraphernalia

Cub Scouts are famous for will come at age 7 when the boys begin working toward the traditional bobcat rank as Tiger Scouts. And, like Tigers, Lion Cubs will need to attend den meetings (one per month, lasting about a hour) and pack meetings (also once per month) alongside a parent or guardian, who acts as an “adult learning partner.”

“We’re already anticipating enough signups to form one Lion Den [consisting of six to eight boys], but for any more we would need some enthusiastic parents to step up and take on a leadership role.”

Madore will oversee the pilot program, working as the Lions’ representative on the Pack 302 committee.

“Since it’s a pilot program in only select areas, we’re going to be evaluated pretty heavily by the national scouting committee to see if this is something they are going to want to open up as an opportunity for all kindergarteners nationwide,” Madore said.

According to Peacock, it was Madore’s involvement as a former scoutmaster that helped secure Pack 302’s application to launch the Lion program. Having put three children through scouting — one girl and three boys — Madore knows a thing or two about the program. Opening cub scouting up to 5 year olds is not an invitation to chaos, as some parents might fear, he said.

“Having done scouts from start to end, I think this introduction piece is needed,” he said, noting that Girl Scouts have historically started their members at age 5.

“It’s something that’s been missing for the boys. When you have an activity like this, it gives the boys and their parents a chance to see if it’s something they really want to attend. For new scouts it’s an opportunity to gain some basic understanding of the program, to know if it’s right for them. In terms of scouting itself as they go on further down the trail, it’s all volunteer, meaning the boys have basically got to want to do it.”

Pack 302 is chartered by the national scouting organization through Saint Martha’s church. Being a scout, Madore and Peacock say, means more than just campfires and hiking, although that is a big part of it.

“On the den level, it’s getting together with peers, and, of course the parents hang out pretty regularly, so, there is a social aspect to it,” Madore said. “Sure, if a child plays soccer or something like that, they interact with their peers, but this is an opportunity for kids to go beyond what they might normally be doing through the schools and other things, It’s a lot of skill-based activities.

“And, with the younger scouts, it’s a chance for parents to spend short period of time with their child doing a fun activity before getting back to the daily grind of meals and laundry and that kind of thing,” he continued.

But as much as the new Lion program is an introductory level for young boys, it also is a gateway for parents who were never scouts themselves.

“It’s a way for parents who may not have a history with scouting to learn what its all about,” Peacock said.

However, for those with a long family history in Boy Scouts, the new program may bring a sense of nostalgia. That’s’ because it resurrects the old Lion rank, once the highest level of cub scouting before the advent or webelos as a transition level into a full-fledged Boy Scout troop. The lion rank was discontinued in 1967.

But, of course, scouting also introduces youngsters to community involvement though a host of charity activities, such as food drives to aid local pantries, Peacock and Madore say.

“It gives kids a chance to be a part of their community from a young age,” Madore said. “This is a year-round program where you really get to take on real responsibilities in a youthful way. In that, some kids really reach of the stars.”

The Kennebunk cubs have “a pretty robust pack” of about 40 members at all age levels, Peacock said. Being a Lion Cub will also give kindergarteners a chance to interact with older boys, although Madore said they’ll get their own version of the popular Pinewood Derby race during their initial pilot year, to take some of the focus off the competitive aspect of the event.

The annual recruitment drive for Kennebunk Cub Scout Pack 302 will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, at the Rogers Pond public recreation site, located at 49 Water Street. Peacock said parents and their children are welcome to drop by at whatever time is convenient for them. Parents and guardians interesting in signing up their sons but unable to attend the event should email Scoutmaster Alex Peacock at cubmaster302@gmail.com.

“We’re excited to get started,” Peacock said. “Right now, we’re just waiting to see what kind of group we have so we can work with all of the parents to set up a den meeting schedule that works for everybody.”

Of course, if the pack gets the turnout it’s hoping for, that could mean multiple dens to pick from.

Cub Scouts want you

The annual recruitment drive of Kennebunk Cub Scout Pack 302 will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, at the Rogers Pond public recreation site, located at 49 Water Street.

It’s a chance for parents to ask questions and for potential scouts to experience some of what they’ll do as members. This year for the first time, the pack will be accepting kindergarten-aged boys as young as 5 years old (or, who will be 5 by September 30) as part of a new Lion Cub pilot program.

Parents and guardians interesting in signing up their sons but unable to attend the event should email Scoutmaster Alex Peacock at cubmaster302@gmail.com.

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