Campfires are always a great hit with Cub Scouts. What’s not to love? You combine the outdoors with singing songs, performing skits and being loud and having a good time. Also, don’t underestimate the power of the fire. It doesn’t take much to take a 7 year old back to his caveman roots.
For April we had our pack meeting outside. A local park has a great fire pit surrounded by a low wall and a grassy hill. We had an indoor backup plan (the school cafeteria) if the weather didnt’ work out, but thankfully didn’t need it. The weather was a gamble, as any Colorado resident can tell you, but in the end we prevailed.
For the audience, the background was three Native American Totem Poles, built in the traditions of the Pacific Northwest.
The totem poles became the basis for the campfire program. As the night progressed we talked about totem poles and how they tell stories, and how Cub Scouts has its own story. So naturally we built our own totem pole throughout the evening!
While we built up our totem, we stopped at each level to talk about animal totems and some of the characteristics associated with the animals:
- Bobcat: Curiosity and Learning
- Tiger: Energy and Unpredictability
- Wolf: Loyalty and Teamwork
- Bear: Independence and Power
- Webelos: Leadership and Being an Example
- Arrow of Light: Talked about the meaning of the 7 rays
As the Pack’s totem was built up step by step we stopped along the way to award rank badges to the dens.
Spread out between the advancement ceremonies were skits and songs by the different dens. Some were elaborate, others simple, but everyone had a great time on “stage”! Our two Assistant Cubmasters did run-ons through the evening, providing the bridge between skits or awards.
As the awards were finished, the songs sung and the last of the skits were performed, the fire was burning down. This is the point where the campfire took a more serious turn and we started talking about the traditions of scouting.
One tradition we talked about was the use of campfire ashes to connect the current campfire to those that have gone before. The idea is that you bring ashes from previous campfires and add them in. Then after the campfire is out you collect up some ashes to take to the next one. At the end of my Wood Badge course we were given some of the ashes from our campfire, along with a sheet that gave an abbreviated history of the campfires connected to them. I say abbreviated, because the complete history is 25 pages long! The ashes I added to the fire that night had connections back through training courses, National and World Jamborees, and even a trip to the moon in 1971.
Those ashes had connections all the way back to a campfire at Brownsea Island in 1907.
After I added the ashes to the campfire, I explained how we would collect some up after the fire was put out. I talked about how we would add those ashes to the campfire at our fall camping trip and collect them up again, and how we had a new tradition in our pack to connect us all the way back to scouting’s beginning. I told the Webelos that when they crossed over to Boy Scouts next February we would be sending them with a small container of ashes, so they would forever be connected to their time in our pack no matter where they go after they leave us.
After the talk about the campfire ash tradition, I reminded all the scouts that they are part of a larger movement, bigger than their den, our pack, or even the BSA. They are scouts like boys and young men around the world, all working to better the world around us. Then after a moment we taught them Scout Vespers, sang through it, and everyone was encouraged to quietly go home.
Campfires are a magical place. I hope it was true for the youngest Tiger through the oldest Webelos, because it was certainly true for the Cubmaster.