The biggest surprise for local Cub Scout leader Bryan Feci was the popularity of online bingo and movie nights among the members of Pack 444 of Hollister. With activities severely limited by COVID-19 social distancing, bringing the scouts together with online games and backyard meetings are just two of the ways they are keeping the kids busy, interested, and safe.
In some ways, the organizational structure of the Boy Scouts of America is perfect for managing small groups and allowing them to be able to get together socially. Guidelines limit gatherings to no more than 12 kids, but with each pack divided into dens, each den includes only about seven scouts. In this way, the scouts are safer than they would be if the whole pack was involved.
“We can mix in-person and online meetings so we are able to have den meetings now,” Feci said. “Which is great because the kids are so excited to see each other again.”
The den leaders are responsible for managing meetings and planning activities for in-person gatherings, usually held in a backyard or park. There are strict guidelines for gatherings that include social distancing, face masks, hand sanitizer, and temperature checks for both scouts and parents.
“We are doing everything we can to be careful and respectful of the guidelines,” Feci said. “One mother, for example, prepared individual supply kits and clipboards for all the kids. Each scout gets their own set of materials so they don’t have to worry about sharing anything.”
If a scout cannot attend for some reason, they are invited to participate remotely.
“We really have to be flexible these days,” Feci said. “One of our parents has health issues, for example. So that scout can’t participate in person. But we want everyone to feel involved, so the den leader will set up a computer so the scout can be there online while the other kids are meeting in person. That way they can feel like they are participating and part of the group.”
Shifting the focus to outdoor gatherings has actually increased the chances for the dens to get together.
“This past year we did more summertime activities than we had in previous summers,” Feci said. “We had one of the parents do a science night, we’ve had two different bingo nights and the kids had a blast with that. My personal favorite is the outdoor movie nights. We had about $1,000 from previous fundraisers and we bought a movie screen, a projector, and some speakers—we went all out.”
Eight-year-old Derynn Day, one of the girls in the pack, particularly enjoyed bingo night. “We all got a card and got to play. It was fun being able to be with all my den again.”
Still, some of the traditional scouting activities have not been possible.
“We can’t go camping or hiking and I really miss it,” said 10-year-old Julian Cervantes, who has been a Cub Scout since the first grade. “We can’t really get together and have pack meetings, and I miss being with everyone.”
With almost 30 scouts in the pack, in-person gatherings of the whole group are not allowed under the guidelines. Recently, however, Feci hosted the first virtual pack meeting.
“It was nice, like back to school night,” he said. “The kids had a lot of fun playing Cub Scout trivia on Kahoot. Then we played a game I call ‘Scout Fetch’ where I asked the kids to find scout-related items in their homes and they have to go find it and share it on the screen. We are trying to be creative and trying to keep up with our values of making scouting fun.”
Despite restrictions on contact, the goal of scouting remains the same: teaching skills and building friendships. The pack is actively recruiting now and may be contacted through their Facebook page.
“If someone was thinking about joining, I would tell them to do it,” said Cervantes. “I’ve learned how to make a tent, how to tie knots, and a lot about the wilderness. It is really fun, it’s really adventurous, and you will have a lot of fun learning new things.”
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