Kristy sent in this question:
Hi my name is Kristy and I am brand new to the scouting world and I am a den leader for wolf. I am wondering how the boys earn belt loops badges etc I am lost and the other leaders confuse me more.
The Cub Scout advancement program can be confusing. Here is a brief explanation, but there will be significant changes to the Cub Scout program starting in May 2015.
For the Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, and Arrow of Light badges, there is a detailed explanation in the handbook for each level and the requirements are spelled out there. This is just an overview.
Cub Scout Ranks
The first thing all Cub Scouts do is earn his Bobcat badge. Most will do this when they join in first grade, but if you have a boy who joins later he should work on Bobcat first. For this badge, he learns basic things like the Cub Scout promise and sign.
First grade Cub Scout work on their Tiger badge. There are five achievements for Tiger and he must do all five to earn the badge. Each acheivement has three parts – one to do as a den, one to do with his family, and a Go See It, which is a field trip. Tiger Cubs do all of their activities with an adult partner. This is usually a parent, but can also be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, adult sibling, etc. They get beads for completing achievements, which are attached to a totem which represents completion of Bobcat. After he completes the five achievements, he gets a patch to wear on his uniform.
After they do the five achievements, they can earn additional recognitions by completing electives. He gets additional beads for his totem for doing electives.
Second graders work on their Wolf rank. For Wolf, there are twelve achievements. Each achievement has multiple requirements. For some achievement he must do all of the parts. In other cases you are given a choice of which requirements to do. Details are on the first page of each achievement in the Wolf handbook. When he completes all twelve achievements, he has earned his Wolf rank and he gets the patch to put on his uniform.
After he completes the achievements, he can earn arrow points by working on electives. For each ten elective requirements he completes, he gets an arrow point to put on his uniform. The first arrow point is gold, the rest are silver. Not that the ten elective requirements do not have to be from the same electives. He can mix and match as he pleases.
Third graders are Bears. Bear is similar to Wolf in that he must complete twelve achievements to get the badge. But there are twenty four achievements to choose from. But he does not get to pick any twelve of the twenty four. They are in four groups – God, Country, Family, and Self. To earn the Bear badge, he must do one from the God group, three from Country, four from Family, and four from Self. Like the Wolf achievements, each one will have multiple requirements. Sometimes he must do all of the requirements to complete an achievement, other times there is a choice. Details are in the Wolf handbook.
Like Wolves, the Bears can earn arrow points after they get their Bear badge. In addition to having the electives to choose from, he can do requirements for any of the Bear achievements he did not use to earn his Bear badge. But unused parts of achievements that were used for the Bear badge may not be counted toward Arrow Points.
Fourth and fifth graders are Webelos. They work on activity badges. There are twenty activity badges divided into five different groups - Physical Skills, Community, Outdoor, Mental Skills, and Technology. Each activity badge has multiple requirements. There are some requirements which must be completed and some they can choose from. The activity badges are actually pins which can be worn on the Webelos colors (ribbons) which are worn on the arm of the uniform.
First year Webelos work on earning their Webelos badge. To earn this badge, they must do some basic requirements – things like participating in a flag ceremony, learning about the Scout Oath and Law, etc. They must also earn the Fitness activity badge, the Citizen activity badge, and one more badge from a different group than Fitness and Citizen. See the Webelos handbook for details. Once they complete the requirements, they can wear the Webelos badge on their uniforms.
After they get their Webelos badge, they can work on their Arrow of Light emblem, which is the highest award a Cub Scout can earn. They must do some more basic requirements, like visiting a Boy Scout troop and going on an outdoor activity. They must also earn Readyman activity badge, Outdoorsman activity badge, and at least two more activity badges. Details are in the Webelos handbook. Usually when they complete Arrow of Light they are ready to move on to Boy Scouting. They get an emblem which can be worn on their Boy Scout uniform. It is customary to present them with some other memento of their achievement as well. Usually this incorporates some sort of “career arrow” which reminds them of all of the things they did in Cub Scouting
Cub Scout Academics and Sports Program (Belt Loops and Pins)
The Academics and Sports program is a supplemental program. Cub Scouts should be focused on earning their ranks. But the belt loops and pins provide additional activities and recognitions. In some cases these can be used to fulfill requirements for Webelos activity badges if the work is done after the Cub Scout started Webelos. They can work on belt loops and pins as a den or on their own.
For the belt loops, there are usually three requirements, all which must be completed. These are meant to introduce the subject to the Cub Scout. When they complete the three requirements, they receive a metal belt loop which they can wear on their Cub Scout belt.
If the Cub Scout wants to learn more about a subject in the Academics and Sports program, they can earn a pin. The belt loop for the subject must be earned first. Then they have a choice of requirements which they can complete. The pins are meant to be worn on the Academics and Sports letter, It is a large blue and gold “C”, like a varsity sports letter. I have never actually seen a Cub Scout with the letter. Most of the Cub Scouts I have seen with the pins put them on a hat or pin them to their uniform.