Cub Scout Pack 520 is a small unit that meets in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. During the course of twelve months we met virtually and resumed in-person outdoor meetings in April 2021. Here are some behind-the-scenes stories and tips from us. We have grown our Pack in this way.
The Pandemic shut us down in March 2020 the same week we were planning to go to the Manhattan Pinewood Derby. It also was the same week schools and businesses closed and there was a lot of uncertainty in our lives. The following week our Pack had our first virtual meeting via Zoom. We would continue this for a solid year. As Cubmaster I tried to balance fun activities while also pushing advancement and working on requirements at home—all in a 30-minutemeeting. We had success with this and graduated two Webelos to our Troop and had one AOL completion. However, we almost immediately lost three Cubs; one mom said they were “Zoomed out”—and that was only one month into the lockdown.
We would not see each other again for eight months. In October 2020 we took part in our annual coastal cleanup with the Riverside Park Conservancy. We wanted to hold a Pack meeting, but our charter organization church remained closed. So I proposed we hold it outdoors on a Saturday morning, so we could practice social distancing and wear masks. We chose Riverside Park because it is only one block from our church. We schlepped our flags and flag stands there and held an outdoor ceremony. I awarded adventure loops and Webelos pins. We held the crossing over ceremonies. By holding a traditional Pack meeting—albeit outdoors—it felt like we were getting back to normal. Our Scouts were so happy. We still continued holding weekly Zoom meetings.
My fear for our Cubs is that they were spending their school day online remote learning, and now meeting in the evening online for Cubs. I did not want Cub Scout meetings to feel like school, or to forget what fun was like when we were together in person.
In November we went to Family Camp at Alpine and it was wonderful. We also held another Saturday outdoor Pack meeting in the cold and drizzle outside the General Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb). It was closed, but the NPS Rangers were awesome and gave the Scouts the history program and made them Junior Rangers. We ended with steal the bacon.
As soon as we started holding in-person meetings, our numbers started going up. Our Pack dipped down to as low as seven members during the Pandemic. As we neared Christmas we were up to 11. It held to this number as we kept meeting virtually, but planning in-person meetings while following the current health and safety guidelines.
My tip for in-person outdoor meetings is to have a little bit of advancement/requirements time, and a lot more activity and running around time. This would play out as we approached February and knew we could not hold our traditional Blue and Gold Banquet. Our leaders racked our brains to think of a place to meet and eat together, without going to a restaurant and trying to go indoors. February weather was terrible. Where could we go? The new Moynihan Train Hall had just opened next to Penn Station. We went there on a Saturday morning in full Class A uniforms. We held our ceremonies, and recited the Scout Oath and the Scout Law inside a train station. I gave them a scavenger hunt to roam around the station for clues. We then walked a couple of blocks to a playground in Chelsea for sack lunches and blue and gold cake. A Scout is “Thrifty” accomplished. We also picked up four new Cubs.
As we entered Spring we tent camped at Cub World in March, and decided that we would try and hold weekly outdoor meetings in April and May due to daylights savings. This would replace our virtual meetings. We added even more new recruits and the Pack is now up to 18.
Here are a few ideas of what we do outdoors to help our Pack. We have tried to replicate the Pack meetings we held indoors. So we always begin our meetings by reciting the Oath, Law, and Outdoor Code. We have the youngest Tiger lead the Pledge of Allegiance. When Scouts earn adventure belt loops and Webelos pins, we try and award them as quickly as possible. Each week we work on part of requirements together, with parents helping at home.
But the most important thing for a return to in-person meetings is for the Scouts to have fun, and they will do that and keep their masks on. Some of them are not back in school buildings yet, and the weekly outdoor Pack meeting is the only time they see their friends together. So once we get the meeting requirements and activities accomplished, they can run and play. As an aside, the public seeing Cub Scouts in full uniform always turns heads.
The biggest benefit I see to returning to in-person meetings is seeing the Cubs together and having fun, while also accomplishing requirements. This spring we just will have one Cub graduate to the Troop and earn AOL; but in 2022 we should have five. Already our Pack is looking forward to summer camp at Cub World and begging to go camping soon. Our Cubs wear their uniforms on school remote learning days and to school again.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned to see if Pack 520 can pull off an outdoor Pinewood Derby this summer…
Kevin C. Fitzpatrick is the Cubmaster of Pack 520 in Manhattan. He is an Eagle Scout and resides on the Upper West Side. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org