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How Cubs Learn

How Cubs Learn
Susan Willis
The Leader, August/September 1988

When you think about the Cubs in your pack, different characters likely come to mind. There are those who talk a lot, give long descriptions, and become easily distracted by noise. There are quiet boys who like pictures and reading and always try to keep their uniforms looking neat. There are others who like to touch, feel, and try out things. This mixture of individuals is the "spice" in a Wolf Cub pack that makes a leader's job interesting and challenging.

We can become frustrated when some Cubs don't respond to parts of the program in the way we expect. When we give instructions for a compass activity (Green Star), a few boys may fidget and seem not to be listening to the directions. Or perhaps we've prepared a very interesting craft (Tawny Star) that some Cubs tackle with much more enthusiasm than others. On an outing to the fire hall (Blue Star), some Cubs may try to get into the fire engine to learn how it works while we worry about the welfare of both the truck and the boys.

These situations don't happen because of our lack of leadership abilities. One of the reasons boys show such different characteristics has to do with the way they learn.

Learning Styles

Research suggests that people learn best through one of three senses - seeing, hearing, or touching. These senses are referred to as learning styles or channels. For each person, one sense is usually the primary learning channel. The person learns through the other channels also, but not as easily.

People who learn best by seeing pictures and reading are called visual learners. In the pack, these Cubs generally prefer order and feel it's important to have a neat uniform with all the badges sewn on correctly. They are concerned about how the items for their Collector badge are displayed and work hard to make their craft creation look just right. Visual learners often show impatience with long verbal explanations but they remember things they see on an outing more than the other Cubs. They usually can work without being distracted by noise and activity around them.

The Cubs in your pack who learn and remember things best by hearing them are called auditory learners. These boys usually like to talk, to be heard, and to listen to others for short periods. They are the ones who want to tell you everything that has happened to them since the last meeting. Unlike visual learners, they aren't too concerned with order and neatness. When you tell a story, they remember and understand more of the details than others. The sounds they hear on an outing make a more lasting impression on them than what they see and, in a tent, they are very conscious of the wind or the sound of rain on the roof. A good way for them to express their understanding of a pack activity is through sound in skits, songs, or stories.

People who learn best through touching or hands-on activities are called the kinaesthetic tactual or KT group. These Cubs want to take apart things to see how they work and like to make or build things such as sand castles in summer and snow sculptures in winter. On an outing, they may remember different kinds of trees by touching the bark on the trunk rather than by looking at the leaves. Although they enjoy making crafts, they aren't as concerned about how the final product looks as visual Cubs. They may give your meetings some lively moments.

Varied Program Important

Each boy needs to find some way to express himself within the Cub program, and we need to be aware of both what he learns and how he learns it. Because people learn in different ways, it becomes very important to use a variety of activities and all eight elements of the Wolf Cub program. By planning meetings around the eight elements and the program emphases (B.P. & P.), you will ensure your program is suited to different kinds of learners.

Within each of the eight program elements, plan a range of activities to meet the needs of your different kinds of learners. Use a variety of games and even various approaches to a single game. Visual learners, for example, do best at a standard Kim's Game, auditory learners shine in a Kim's Game based on sounds, and KT learners are successful in a blindfolded Kim's Game where they feel different items. For badge or star work, you can offer a variety of approaches involving different senses: e.g., discussing, making, observing.

Cubs will experience greater success from activities in which they use their primary learning channels. They can learn in other ways, too, but it is harder and less comfortable for them. Your Cubs will feel better about themselves and learn more when they can do some activities in their primary learning channel.

It's not so difficult to arrange. Consider these program items, which include activities in each of the learning styles.

1. Teaching knots: show Cubs how the knot is tied; tell them how it is tied and why it is used; have them tie the knot.

2. Crafts: show Cubs the finished craft; help them do each stage of the project by explanation and demonstration.

3. Outing: go to see the fire hall; back at the meeting place, have the Cubs talk about their visit and paint or draw what they saw.

4. Nature hike: on the hike, have Cubs gather natural materials; after the hike, ask them to talk about what they saw; let them use the natural materials for a collection or to make a craft.

5. Teaching the importance of good diet: have Cubs tell what foods they eat and what part each plays in a balanced diet; show pictures or samples of the foods; have Cubs prepare a simple well balanced meal or, for a different touch, create and perform skits about the importance of a balanced diet.

Because leaders have different learning styles as well, the concept of shared leadership in the leadership team is also important for providing Cubs a balanced program. A balanced varied program that includes all eight elements reinforces and supports the activities of the school, home, and other social institutions involved in the development of young people.

When we understand that children learn in different ways, we can better understand the behaviour Cubs display in some activities. Know your Cubs' individual strengths and build on them so that you can help them do their best in your program.

Susan Willis is a member of the National Program Committee, Wolf Cubs.

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