Tips for Hosting In-Person Den Meetings

Practical Tips for Hosting an In-Person Den Meeting in a COVID-19 Environment

This document is to help guide Den Leaders in running in-person den meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This guide is not a replacement for following BSA S.A.F.E. protocols, nor is it permission to act outside of state and local regulations. 

 

Pack 511’s Webelos Den ran in-person Den Meetings in May of 2020, on a weekly basis.  We took the following steps to keep everyone healthy.  Our Parents and Scouts did not become Ill as of this writing.

You will be doing more sanitizing, laundry, handwashing and glove wearing than what a normal Den Meeting may require of you.  

 

FOLLOW BSA GUIDELINES

Download the S.A.F.E. Checklist and incorporate this guidance into your planning.

 

PRE-MEETING

COMMUNICATION

Be sure you are actively speaking with your den and den Parents about meeting parameters. Host a virtual Den meeting prior to hosting an in-person den meeting.  Since Parents should be on the virtual meetings anyway, it gives you the chance to communicate to them jointly as to:

  • Why you are meeting in-person
  • What steps you are taking to maintain a S.A.F.E. environment
  • What rules and procedures you expect them, as parents, to follow.

 

DURING THE MEETING

MASKS – NO EXCEPTION.

This Den Leader provided hand-sewn masks for the Scouts (we used the AJC pattern -see pic below)   After every meeting, the masks were washed and stored in individual zip-lock bags. Most parents already had a mask in their possession. 

We know that not everyone is a do-it-yourselfer. Just be sure to always have enough for everyone, Be Prepared. Expect for someone to show up without one.

If you are handing out a mask, wash your hands and put on gloves, do not allow the Scouts to help themselves.

None of my parents had an issue with masks, but I have heard that some parents do not wear them for either legitimate, or non-legitimate, reasons.  It does not matter which, as the Den Leader you are in-charge of hygiene and setting the expectations.  Be Gentle, and explain that you understand their concerns, but must be mindful of everyone involved.  Ask if they could please wait in their car or provide a place for them to sit away from the group but in view. (There are Scouting Law lessons here on being Friendly, Courteous, and Obedient that you can rely on).

Kids get hot wearing masks.  See Section on DISTANCING to learn how to give them a break.

MINIMIZING EXPOSURE

Attendance

Since Meeting in small groups is the goal, you need to bring the participant list down to 2 adults and the scouts.  

Almost all parents understand the need to keep the group small (< 10 People).

Parent should be aware of 2-Deep Leadership.  Mine are. I work by myself as a Den leader, as my parents are almost always in attendance at every meeting.  During COVID, I asked 1 parent to be my dedicated 2nd Adult, and all others to wait.

There is a way to let parents participate – see section on DISTANCING.

Siblings

I asked my parent to avoid bring siblings, as was their habit. 

If not possible, ask them Kindly to wait in the car, or perhaps engage in an activity away from the scouts.  Be sure you explain why. Be understanding. I explained that I simply could not accommodate siblings in my meetings until COVID was under control.

Gloves

When handing my Scouts their masks, I wore Glove, after washing my hands.  Be prepared to wash your hands several times.

When we sat and practiced tying knots, I used gloves to hand out the strings.

Bathrooms

Kids have to go. If meeting in a house, or a public park, or in your Chartered Org’s parking lot, clean the Bathroom – pre AND post meeting.

I have elderly parents living with me who are considered high-risk for contracting COVID.  To reduce exposure, they remained in their own separate area of the house where they would not be in contact with the Scouts. 

I also set a pre-determined path to the bathroom. I explained this path to them and why they must follow it.

My Scouts know all the doors to my house, but I required that they use only one, I locked all the others.

On the bathroom route, The Scouts had to use the hand sanitizer prior to entering, and once finished,  must wash their hands and use a fresh towel to dry (provided in the Bathroom), and then toss that towel in the a basket – do not reuse towels. When returning, they must re-sanitize their hands.

I realize that some of this may work better for a Webelos Den than a Tiger Den (I’ve led Lions through Webelos – I know).  Re-affirm with the Scout “Did you Wash Your Hands?”  Go over the procedure and keep it as simple as possible.  Its not going to be 100% followed.  Hence, the second use of hand sanitizer when returning to the group.

Activities

Activities for Cub Scouts typically involve some sort of hands-on activity, make sure each Scout has their own supply of materials (i.e. crayons and scissors for projects, string for knots, etc.).

Certain activities can be broken out into stations.  We did a practice cooking den meeting, where scouts were broken out into individual stations (distanced almost 10 – 15 feet away) to do a specific type of cooking. One did Camp Stove, while one did Dutch-oven.  They had to wash their hands multiple times.  Parents helped to monitor safety.    

Some activities, like knot tying, can be done by sitting all the Scouts into chairs purposefully spaced 6 feet from one another.  We set up pre-determined spots for the chairs to go.  They were wiped down pre and post meeting. Parents brought their own lawn chairs for this, which minimized the need for multiple “touches” of items.

For activities, it’s important to think through the activity.  For example, in a cooking demonstration, each scout needed to bring in cooking implements from home to avoid everyone using the same (i.e. stirring spoon, ladle, butter knife).  Its an easy ask and reduces the need for them to share utensils which can spread germs.

Food and Drink

Do not hand out pre-packed snacks.  By a case of bottle water and sanitize the outside packaging, then handout as necessary if the Scouts get thirsty.

This is a good time for the Scouts to practice bringing their Six Essentials. Speak with the parents about what they are, why we ask Cub Scouts to bring them, and why in a COVID environment it is necessary to build this habit.  Press your parents to provide their own food and drink.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Meet outside

This may become difficult when daylight savings time changes, or when the weather is bad.  Perhaps save some meetings which can easily be done virtually for this time.  

Also consider changing your meeting time and place to be more accommodating. Perhaps move your den meetings to a Saturday or Sunday morning or afternoon.   Query your Parents in a virtual session on what works best for everyone. 

Pre-determine the 6-Feet Distance.

Just like you have seen at the stores, Mark where the Scouts can stand and sit.

Mark spaces that are 6 feet apart on the floor.  Use painters’ tape (blue tape that removes easily), yard flags, road cones, Tent stakes, etc.  Just be sure the markers are affixed to the spot and cannot be moved.  When doing activities, set chairs at these spots and conduct your meeting.  Be sure to mark a spot for you.  (See Pictures below).

Get Creative.  Have the Scouts create Den Shields to be placed on their spot.  They can add to the decorations at every meeting.   It would become a great piece of decoration at a Blue and Gold ceremony later and give them something to practice with for a flag ceremony.

Parents Join the Meeting

Parents can join if:

A) they are sitting with their Scout and not interacting with the others, or

B) they are sitting in a spot 6 feet away from the group (think of a classroom where all the desks are 6 feet apart).

We did this, especially with knot tying where the scouts needed more help.  I placed more space between the scouts, so they were actually 8 feet apart. Families can be together; but they must understand the rules on mask wearing.   

To Be Clear, this option worked for us because all my parents and Scouts understood the reasons for wearing masks. All of them wore and were prepared to wear one. 

If you have a parent who, for whatever reason, will not wear a mask, then that parents cannot participate in the meeting.  Locate a section of space where they can observe from a distance with marks indicating 6 -feet distance between spots.  Or, they can wait in their Car. 

Mask Fatigue

Meeting in the heat made many of the scouts tired, especially trying to breath through a cloth mask.  Give them a Mask Break.

Mask Breaks are where the Scouts can sit and simply breath without wearing a mask.  They Must sit in a pre-determined marked spot in order to do so.  

If you make your pre-determined spots more than 6 feet apart, then it is possible to conduct a meeting with out wearing a mask.  But the Masks Must be at the ready.

NOTE: We are all dealing trying to re-write our habits for a short period of time. People are prone to forget new habits in favor of old ones.  So, when they get up to use the rest room, or get a drink of water on a Mask Break, be sure you and the parents are paying attention and have them place the mask back on when leaving their Spot.  

Yes, you are the Mask, Handwashing and sanitation Sherriff.  Deputize your Parents.

Breaking the Social Distance.

Authorities agree that you can break social distancing protocols for a brief period – providing you are wearing a mask.  If you must break social distancing rules, wear a mask and keep it to a few seconds.

ENDING THE MEETING

SET UP A HAND WASHING STATION:

Use a small table or stand to hold pump soap and individual hand towels.  Set this up next to a water spigot with a hose near wherever it is they would exit your meeting. 

  1. Pump soap into their hands, hold out the hose while they wash.
  2. Let them pick up a towel to dry with.
  3. The towel should be disposed into a basket for cleaning if using cloth towels, or trash for paper towels.
  4. Give them some hand sanitizer.
  5. After hand washing, they should not linger, but move immediately back to their car with their parent.  

In my den, we used hand made cloth masks.  I had each Scout turn them in just prior to washing hands.  These went into the laundry with the towels.

If there is not hose outside available, use some jugs of water.

At the Washing station, set markers for where the Scouts should stand in-line.  Marked 6 feet apart for distancing.  This should be made clear to them at the beginning of the meeting and given as a reminder before dismissing the meetings.

Turn it into a Scouting game – have them recite the Scout law and Oath as they wash, to ensure they are washing long enough.

Wear a Mask while commencing the Handwashing.

POST MEETING

Keep in contact with your parents.  Do a health check. 

Exhibits

Each Blue X represents where a person should stand or sit during a Den Meeting.

Example of Hand Washing Station – Ruler is marking 6 feet distance for Scouts to wait in line.

Notice that there is plenty of space for Scouts to leave the station once finished.

Have Parents sit behind the Scouts.

If Parents are sitting with the Scouts to Help – Increase the Distance.  Families can sit together, but more space is required to maintain minimum distance between groups.

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