This fall, Scouting will launch a new pilot program called “Lions” in select councils nationwide. This new pilot program is designed to test whether or not Scouting can and should serve kindergarten-age boys. Originally piloted and developed in the Northern Star Council, and joined by a few others, it has proven to be popular with parents and kids over the past few years. This pilot expansion is designed to develop good, measurable data to determine program quality, parent involvement and its overall fit into the Scouting format.
What We Know
According to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report, 57 percent of kids ages 6–17 participate in at least one after-school extracurricular activity. This means that by the time they are eligible for Tigers, more than half of them already are engaged in some type of athletic, artistic or other program.
Often, children become attached to lifelong activities at an early age — that is certainly a goal we would have, as we know the long-term benefits of Scouting involvement include strong asset development in the areas of character and leadership. However, we also know that when youth participate in numerous activities at an early age, and miss joining Scouting, they are unlikely to do so at adolescence.
What will be important to learn in the next few years, if the initial entry point works at the kindergarten-age level, is will this cause losses at a different age, or will the program keep the same retention all the way through to Boy Scouting?
What we learn from the pilot Lion format could also help us assess and create a smoother transition from Webelos into Boy Scouting. Too many parents now see a barrier or obstacle, rather than a smoother transition. You will often hear parents say, “We did Cub Scouting, now we’re not sure if we are going to do Boy Scouts.” We do not have a seamless transition into Boy Scouts for a number of reasons. This pilot test will help us think through some of these issues.
We want to be sure that our Lion program delivers the right mix of character and leadership values and that we set the bar high. The program must be sustainable, we must have the right infrastructure to support it, and it needs to address in a meaningful way the needs of parents who want their kids to join Scouting at an earlier age.
You can rest assured that we will carefully evaluate our progress and keep you apprised of the results. Stay tuned for more.
Thanks for reading.