This weekend most of the boys from my den visited Discovery World in Milwaukee, and earned their Engineer and Scientist Badges for Webelos. This was also Jamboree on the Trail weekend, so between our programs, we decided to hike around the relatively new Lakeshores Park created on the “island” to the East of the Summerfest grounds.

I think we learned pretty early on that the Webelos Badges were a little different than the Cub Scouting we had done previously. Most of Cubbing up until Webelos had been a lot of fun “doing.” As a den leader, I put together cool activities, and the boys learned as the worked, but it seemed that in Webelos the game changed quite a bit.

Like most dens, we chose to do the required badges: Fitness and Citizenship first. Much of those badges involves something that felt a lot more like schoolwork than it felt like the Scouting we had been doing! But right away last summer we camped with Samoset Council and got the chance to earn several more badges at camp in a completely different atmosphere. There we did Naturalist and Aquanaut. As a den, we found tons of places that could help us put FUN back in many of those badges – we did Forester & Geologist at Pringle Nature Center, and a couple of the boys did Art at the Racine Art Museum.

It wasn’t that the work was any different – but the experience the boys took away certainly was! I consider myself a pretty clever teacher and den leader – but there is something to be said for “having the right tools” when it comes to getting the job done! Especially for badges that you as a den leader may be struggling with yourself – consider finding somewhere that will teach the boys for you!

I also look at it a little like trying to take the emphasis off of me as a den leader and cubmaster, and having the boys now looking to someone more like a merit badge counselor who can tell them if they’re doing it right or not.

So what kind of things did we do? Well after laying on the bed of nails and checking themselves out on the thermal imaging camera, they got to build mousetrap powered catapults, bridges and build a working light switch out of paperclips and a Styrofoam plate. They learned that there is a lot of atmospheric pressure pushing down on them, why a baseball breaks when a curve ball is thrown, and got to zing a card out from under a washer without moving it.

Obviously they did a lot more than that, but as I got to enjoy being in the program with the boys I had to think to myself – “how would *I* have taught this?” Would I have been able to buy all of the materials and set up all of the same demonstrations? Probably not.

Some of the programs have cost us only $2-3. Others have been as high as $10. But I’m pretty sure that I would have spent at least that much on each of the boys trying to give them as great of an experience as they got at the museum.

We still have to grow some crystals – we brought home the recipe for making Rock Candy! But when we’re done, we’ll have earned two cool Webelos badges and our JOTT 2010 patch in exchange for a fun Saturday together that cost me less than what a movie would have.