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prepare the boys for the filed trip. Review with them what they are going to do and see. Remind them that they are Scouts and how they behave will reflect on all Scouts. Ask them to think of questions for the person conducting the tour. You might suggest some that follow the guidelines of a particular requirement. You should prepare a game or two to play with them in case there is an unexpected delay or some wait. When the tour is over, have the boys write a thank you note, either individually or as a den, to the person who gave the tour. Small courtesies, such as this, are a valuable habit for the boys to get into and are many times deeply appreciated by the person providing the tour.
Den hikes are an excellent way of exposing boys to the outdoors. Other than in the confines of a building, such as a shopping mall or a school, it is amazing how little people walk outside anywhere anymore. So even a brief urban hike can present new opportunities for discovery. Always have an objective for the hike. It may be to the local Braums for ice cream. Or it may be to a starting point for a treasure hunt. Allow the boys to have some input into the objective.
Not only should there be an objective, but think of some things to do along the way (if you don't, the boys will). Boys like to collect things. Use this natural instinct to help them earn their activity badges. For example, keep an eye out while passing constructions sites for different types of wood used in the building of a home. This will help them earn Forester. Note the shape of leaves or clouds. If you don't know much about it, make your library an objective. Or bring books to your home for after the hike, if the library is too far away. You can then share in the excitement of discovery of identifying what you have seen and indirectly teach the boys valuable skills, habit, and resources. For Naturalist, challenge them to collect as many different kinds of insects as they can find on the sidewalk. Limit the physical space of the activity or they will run all over the place.
Hiking is great time to learn songs, especially songs with a cadence or a response. The natural rhythm of walking makes this activity irresistible even for boys who may be too embarrassed to participate in songs in a den meeting. Songs pull them together as a group, banish boredom, and make hiking a real joy. the tradition of trail songs is at least centuries old. The voyagers that helped to open up the Northwest part of our country west of the Mississippi in the late 1700's and early 1800's hired on new employees not only based on their physical capability and skills with a canoe, but their ability to sing. Songs helped to ease the fatigue brought on by 14 hour days of paddling and carrying 200 pound loads over swampy uneven harbors.
If the hike is about a mile or so in an area with no facilities, encourage the boys to carry a day pack with such things as snacks, a rain poncho, a canteen or plastic bottle of water, and their Webelos Scout Book. Day packs can comfortably hold up to about ten pounds. Boys should generally carry no more than about five. They may protest that they can carry more, but once on the trail, they may begin to complain of aching shoulders. Unlike a backpack day packs have no hip belt to help redistribute weight from their shoulders to their hips. Do not encourage boys to wear a backpack. In any case they are too young for true backpacking. This is an activity and a skill that they will later learn in Boy Scouting.
Webelos Overnight Campout
Of all the outdoor activities you lead as a Webelos Den Leader the Webelos overnight campout is probably the most ambitious. It is the one event that your boys in general are the most excited about and may remember the longest. Some of your boys may have camped before with their families. Some of them will have never camped before. But even if they have, camping overnight with friends their own age has a tremendous appeal to nine and ten year old boys. It is your job as a Webelos leader to first of all provide the opportunity for the experience to happen and then make sure that you plan quality activities to help ensure the campout's success. A Webelos program without at least one or two campouts cannot be considered complete, nor totally successful. Campouts will both help hold the interest of the boys in the program and prepare them for new adventures in the Boy Scout troop they join.
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