Every Webelos Scout looks forward with great anticipation to the day he will receive his Arrow of Light award, turn eleven, and subsequently cross over the bridge to be welcomed into the troop as part of the eleven-year-old (EYO) Scout patrol of the Primary. It is always a joy to see their excitation for the new adventure of Boy Scouting. Here are some ideas to include in the bridging ceremony that will start them off well and contribute to successful Scout meetings for them and for you.
In some bridging ceremonies, the ceremony traditionally includes changing a boy’s blue Cub Scout shoulder loops to the forest green Boy Scout loops, receiving a new Boy Scout neckerchief, and receiving a copy of the Boy Scout Handbook. In my tenure as an EYO Scout leader, I found it invaluable to hand them a daypack full of essential Scout items that would help the EYO Scout as well as assist the EYO Scout patrol have successful meetings and outings.
First, there is the daypack. A daypack is an essential item for executing many parts of the EYO Scout program, to include most outdoor activities. Further, I would tell each Scout this is a great place for you keep your Scout shirt. Too often boys showed up to EYO patrol meetings or outings without their shirts, stating they had no idea where their shirt was. It was lost in his closet, or found, but in the wash. Having a place to always put his shirt went a long way to knowing where it was and remembering to bring it—wrinkled or otherwise. It is also an ideal place to keep the Boy Scout Handbook. Being able to grab and go with all the essentials for a great Scout meeting means an EYO Scout can fully participate and get the most out of the meeting.
Next, a compass. I included a Silva type compass. Every Scout should have a compass. If they bring their day packs, they will always be prepared to orient themselves if needed or call upon. Further, as they work on advancement, they will need a compass for requirements as Tenderfoot, 2nd Class, and 1st Class Scout requirements (T-1a; 2nd-3a and 3b; and 1st-4a). They will use this outdoor Scout item for most of their time in Scouting.
A whistle. This is a safety item when in the outdoors. Inspired by the search for nine-year-old Jimmy Beveridge in 1981 in southern California and initiated by the caring heart of Ab Taylor. The Hug-a-Tree and Survive program teaches children how to survive in the woods should they become lost. I was in San Diego when the San Diego County Council adopted this safety program. When lost, hug a tree; then blow your whistle. You can blow a whistle longer than you can yell for help. Further, if you are searching for someone, periodically blowing your whistle will alert a lost person you are in the area. On several outings, I have heard the whistle and assisted Scouts in finding their way back to the campsite. I recall several dark nights when a Scout would get up and go to the bathroom, but could not navigate back to the campsite. I heard the whistle and responded with my whistle, navigating the young lad back into camp.
Cup, plate, and bowel. As much as paper is convenient, Scouts need to learn field sanitation. Having these items as part of the daypack means that they will always remember to bring them. I like the enamel type but other Scouters prefer plastic. Both work well. One reason I like enamel is when I put hot food from a Dutch oven onto the plate or into the bowel, it cools quickly. At the end of a long day, boys are really hungry and want to eat quickly. Rapid cooling allows them to dig in sooner and prevents them from burning their mouths.
Twine, paper, and pencil. These are other Scout essentials. Twine is essential for practicing knots, and building useful camp tools using pioneering skills. Paper and pencil are essential for taking notes at patrol meetings and recording information during Scout outings. The paper can be used for emergency fire starting and the pencil can be used with the twine to make rope.
A trail to Eagle notebook. This is something the Scout should keep at home. In this notebook, I provide an Eagle Scout Rank Application and plastic sheets to hold rank advancement cards and merit badge blue cards. When it becomes time to apply for the Eagle Scout rank, he will need copies of the blue cards and verification of the dates of advancement. This notebook becomes the place to store and record key Scouting records.
I include an Eagle Scout Rank Application so boys and parents can become aware of and record key dates such as the date he became a Boy Scout (recorded from his initial application—be wise and use his birthday when you fill out the BSA Youth Application). Clearly visible on the form are the places to record the dates of First Class, Star, and Life Scout boards of review as well as the date each of the 21 merit badges used to apply for Eagle Scout was earned.
I found that boys and parents seeing the application grasp the importance of having a place to record and store key information. It is also fun to place each merit badge and rank advancement card into the plastic sleeve as they are earned, providing a visual aid of their advancement along the trail to Eagle Scout.
As a Tenderfoot Scout (requirement 4d) they will assemble a first aid kit. The backpack is a perfect place to store and have available their kit. They should have a fire starting kit. Further, they will need a plastic spoon, knife, and fork as well as a water bottle and snacks. The daypack becomes a repository for keeping many other things.
Once you start your tradition of each Scout having a Scouting daypack, they will be prepared for each meeting. Learning to organize themselves goes a long way to being prepared. Success in Scouting is very dependent on organization and planning. Be wise, be smart, and help your EYO Scouts stay organized when they transition from Webelos Scout to the EYO patrol.
-Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.