The first three are structured as problem solving stations. The last is an activity. Form the group of Webelos into four (or fewer) patrols. Rotate the patrols through the stations. Allow 8 to 15 minutes per station. (In a scout leader training syllabus, this would be called a "Round Robin.")

In the following, you might wish to substitute the word "den" where I have used "patrol." That is okay. The reason I called the group a patrol is to help me keep in mind that part of the purpose of these exercises is to introduce and reinforce some of the concepts contained in "the patrol method." It isn't essential to Webelos advancement, but it should be a staple in the Troop program into which these Webelos will soon graduate.

Thirsty Bird(with apologies to Aesop)

Materials: a plastic pop bottle (about 1/2 liter), plastic eyedropper, a bucket of pea gravel small enough to drop into the bottle, water supply. (Hint: glue a string on the eyedropper, near either end, so that it can be retrieved if it falls into the bottle.)

Preparation: Embed the empty bottle, with neck exposed, in a bucket of gravel. Partially fill the bottle with water, but leave the water level just too low to be reached with the eyedropper. Remove the water supply.

When the patrol arrives, read the following:
 "A jar (point to the pop bottle) is partly buried in the ground. Rains have partially filled the jar with water. A very thirsty bird has found the jar, but the neck of the jar is so small that only the bird's beak (show the eyedropper) can fit down into it. The jar is stuck too firmly into the ground for the bird to tip it over. Can you show the bird how to get a drink?"

Encourage the patrol members to discuss the problem, to offer solutions, and to select possible solutions to try. If it is a "babble" with no progress, ask if it would help if one of the patrol members led the group.

If the patrol seems to be making no progress after a few minutes, read the following:
 "Do you think that a bird could pick up a piece of this gravel in its beak?"

Reflection, one minute for each question at end of period:
"Why does putting gravel into the bottle raise the level of water in the bottle?"
"Did the person selected to lead the group really need to know the solution?"

Sunken Treasure

Materials: a dishpan full of water, a table knife, two 2" rocks, a two dozen 5" long "logs" made from 1/2"X1" pine.

Preparation: Place the rocks in the bottom of the dishpan and lay the knife across them. (There needs to be plenty of space to push the "logs" under the knife. There also needs to be plenty of room under the heavy end of the knife!) Stack the "logs" nearby.

When the patrol arrives, read the following:
 "A bar of silver is lying near the bottom of a deep lake. You want to get the bar back onto the shore. You have no rope to tie onto the bar, and it is too heavy to lift or carry. How can you get the bar up to the surface so that you can swim it back to shore?"

Encourage the patrol members to discuss the problem, to offer solutions, and to select possible solutions to try. If it is a "babble" with no progress, ask if it would help if one of the patrol members led the group.

Allow the scouts to discuss ideas. After a minute or two, if they have not already identified the "logs" as a likely solution, read them the following:
 "Look! I found a stack of logs here on the shore! I'm sure that each scout would be able to swim one of these logs down to the silver bar."

Reflection, one minute at end of period:
"Why did you need to put more logs at the heavy end of the knife?"

Float a Sunken Ship

Materials: a dishpan full of water, a plastic ice cube tray (weighted), four 1/2" thick rocks, disposable soda straws (enough to go around).

Preparation: Tape weights to each end of the ice cube tray. (I needed to tape about a quarter ounce of lead to each end of the tray to keep it from floating up on its own. Putting the lead high up decreased the stability and made the challenge somewhat more difficult.) Place the rocks in the bottom of the dishpan, and lay the tray across them facing down. (Allow the air to escape as the tray is submerged. Place the straws nearby.

When the patrol arrives, read the following:
 "A ship, the USS Ice Cube Tray, has sunk with a dangerous cargo of radioactive material. The scouts were asked to help float the ship so that it can be towed to a safe area for decontamination. The ship is too fragile for lifting by ropes or cables, and it is too close to the bottom to put floats under it. How can it be raised?"

Encourage the patrol members to discuss the problem, to offer solutions, and to select possible solutions to try. If it is a "babble" with no progress, ask if it would help if one of the patrol members led the group.

Allow the scouts to discuss ideas. After a minute or two, if they have not already identified the straws as a likely solution, read them the following:
 "Look! I see some air hose! (point to the disposable straws) Will that help solve the problem?"

Reflection, one minute at end of period:
"Why did you have to work together when pumping air into the ship?" (They will have to work together, because too much air under any part of the tray will tip it over, allowing the air to escape.)

Water Rockets

A variation of a demonstration at Philmont Training Center in 1992 can be found at:

This uses air pressure and reaction mass (water) to propel a "rocket" 50 to 100 feet into the air. The launcher holds the rocket by "friction". Air is pumped into the rocket. When the force of the air pressure inside the rocket overcomes the force of friction holding the rocket down, the rocket shoots up into the sky.

Latest update: 5/28/2001
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